An assessment of the effectiveness and the WTO legality of China’s climate action: policies and laws on feed-in tariff and emissions trading scheme as case studies

Shi, Yunxiang (2021). An assessment of the effectiveness and the WTO legality of China’s climate action: policies and laws on feed-in tariff and emissions trading scheme as case studies. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Climate change is one of the biggest global challenges of the 21st century and now it is the defining moment for the international community to take actions. China, currently the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, recognises the seriousness of this environmental issue and has taken the responsibility to develop its extensive policies and laws on climate action to alleviate the global climate change. While China has made an appreciable progress in addressing climate change by putting in place national policies and laws, it has not yet set up relevant assessment mechanisms to evaluate its policies and laws, especially with regard to their effectiveness and legality.

Against this background, this thesis seeks to provide recommendations regarding feasible assessment framework and mechanisms that can be put in place in China. This framework will allow policy makers in China to assess the effectiveness and the legality of China’s policies and laws on climate action. To that end, the thesis explored several research questions. First, the thesis examines policies and laws enacted and implemented to support China’s climate action with the aim of assessing their effectiveness in achieving the nation’s environmental protection targets, economic development targets and social targets. Corollary to this question, is the issue of legality of those measures under WTO law. Finally, the thesis explores lessons learned from the EU policies and laws on climate change and how those lessons can be applied to Chinese context.

All questions are explored through two case studies. Case study one examines China’s Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) for deploying renewable energy, taking wind and solar energy as examples. This case study assesses the effectiveness and the WTO legality of China’s FITs currently applied to the wind and the solar energy sectors. Case study two investigates the effectiveness and the WTO legality of China’s policies and laws enacted and implemented in support of China’s pilot and national Emissions Trading Schemes (China’s ETSs). Through the design of the assessment and its framework, as well as the process of the assessment, this study will benefit further development of China’s climate legislation and its enforcement. Firstly, being sustainability-oriented, the effectiveness assessments conducted in this study will reveal the effects of the policies and laws of China on FITs and ETSs in reducing carbon emissions and in achieving the country’s sustainable development goals. Secondly, the scrutiny of the legality of China’s FITs and ETSs within the context of the WTO law will give Chinese policymakers a clear idea of the legal status of Chinese measures for combating climate change. The legality assessments will also provide an applicable policy assessment mechanism for policymakers to measure the legality of China’s relevant policies and instruments against WTO rules.

When necessary, the assessments conducted in this study also take references from the regulatory measures and the assessment mechanisms adopted by the European Union (EU) for reducing the GHG emissions in its member states. The EU is one of the most vigorous advocates of addressing climate change, and it is also one of the leading forces in deploying renewable energy and in promoting ETS. Nowadays, the EU is providing the most important support to China in the field of climate actions, including both policymaking and policy implementation. This close partnership built between the EU and China determines that references to the climate actions of the EU are significant and necessary for the examination of Chinese climate policies and laws.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: Birmingham Law School
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science > JX International law
K Law > KZ Law of Nations


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