Just in time for Copenhagen, China is planning a pilot emissions trading scheme in its next five-year plan for economic development.
The Environment Ministry said that a trial system for trading in permits to pollute was one of four main emissions reductions goals that would be contained in blueprint for growth in China from 2011 to 2015, which bureaucrats are still developing.
China has floated this balloon before — see this story for example — so perhaps we shouldn't read too much into it, particularly as the Environment Ministry's statement comes so close to the Copenhagen summit on climate change, which takes place in December.
The government is already experimenting with pilot emission trading schemes for pollutants that cause acid rain. But it is China's greenhouse gas emissions that has the rest of the world most worried because of their sizable contribution to global warming.
Unfortunately, the statement does not clarify whether the permit-trading trials will extend to cover greenhouse gases or continue to focus on pollutants that cause acid rain.
The lack of clarification will no doubt frustrate western businesses and consultants looking to export the experience gained running or advising on carbon trading schemes in the west to China.
If you think China's posture on climate change is vague, just wait for wait to see the consensus document that comes out of Copenhagen.
The Financial Times has read through the draft negotiating text for Copenhagen that is currently being thrashed out by officials. It is full of paragraphs like this one in which anything at all contentious is placed in square brackets:
[In reflection of] [Because of] their historical responsibility for the accumulation of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, [developed country Parties [and other Parties included in Annex I of the Convention] [must] [should] [show leadership] [in the global effort to build a low-carbon economy that ensures continued growth and sustainable development and strengthens capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change] [shall take the lead in combating climate change] [and the adverse effects thereof] [in] [by] [in particular on taking corresponding measures in] [mitigation] [in taking on ambitious economy-wide quantified emission limitation and reduction] commitments [immediately implementing ambitious and legally binding emissions reductions] [through deep reductions in their emissions.] [or actions.]
There are 181 pages like that.