The New Insider Trading: Environmental Markets within the Firm

By As originally posted on Columbia Law School’s The CLS Blue Sky Blog

Global climate change is the most pressing environmental problem of our time. This fact has led legal scholars and policymakers to debate the relative environmental effectiveness, efficiency, and justice of different public policy instruments such as carbon taxes, cap-and-trade systems, and prescriptive regulation. Such scholarship tends to assume that the government is the key (or only) player setting and enforcing environmental standards against private firms, which are regulatory targets.

In a recent article, entitled, The New Insider Trading: Environmental Markets within the Firm,[1] (available here) I challenge these assumptions through a close examination of British Petroleum’s (BP’s) use of a private carbon emissions trading scheme and Microsoft’s use of a private carbon fee. I argue that this new “insider trading” should be considered as part of an expanded toolkit of options to address climate change. However, some caution is warranted when evaluating these forms of private environmental governance along various normative dimensions to ensure that they are not merely greenwashing. This argument fits within an emerging literature recognizing and assessing the role that private actors, including business firms and non-governmental organizations, may play to address environmental problems like climate change.[2]

In 1998, BP’s CEO announced publicly that BP would reduce its carbon emissions by ten percent (compared to a 1990 baseline) by 2010. To achieve this goal, BP created an internal emissions trading system. By 2002, BP terminated the program, having met its goal eight years ahead of schedule. BP adopted its emissions trading system for several reasons, including to develop expertise in emissions trading in anticipation of future public regulation, to reduce emissions at zero net cost to the firm in light of the firm’s decentralized structure, and to enhance its reputation – particularly at a time when many of its peer energy firms were continuing to oppose climate legislation vociferously worldwide. In creating its emissions trading system, BP faced many of the same challenges that public regulators face, including how high to set the cap, how to distribute permits/allocations among business units, how to enforce the trading rules, and how to set up the trading system.[3]

More recently, in 2012, Microsoft announced its intention to become “net zero” or carbon neutral in certain aspects of its business, including data centers, software development labs, offices, and employee business air travel.[4] To achieve this goal, Microsoft has implemented a tax-like private “carbon fee” on the emissions generated in these activities. Like BP, Microsoft faces many of the same issues that public regulators face in designing a carbon tax, including setting the right “price,” determining the scope of the program, and determining how to administer and enforce the program to ensure compliance by managers. In Microsoft’s case, the firm has touted publicly the benefits of adopting an internal carbon fee—which it still employs – in part because of strategic synergies with its software and cloud computing business. For example, if other firms adopted a carbon fee like Microsoft’s, Microsoft contends that they could reduce emissions by by transferring data to Microsoft’s cloud computing system or by using Microsoft cloud-based software to monitor and report emissions.[5]

Other private actors are now considering carbon charges and fees. For example, on April 20, 2015, Yale University’s Presidential Carbon Charge Task Force issued a report recommending that Yale adopt an internal carbon pricing system, with the charge set at the social cost of carbon, to properly align incentives for decision makers to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions.[6] The President and Provost of the University reported that Yale would begin with a pilot project. The full report of the Task Force is available here.

Such private environmental governance could potentially have a significant impact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that the impact could be global in scope. For example, BP’s global carbon footprint arising from its onsite activities and purchased electricity is comparatively larger than that of sixteen states.[7] Indeed, according to data reported by firms to the CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project), the top fifty reporting business firms accounted for approximately three-quarters of all emissions in 2013.[8] These firms have some degree of control over the reduction of emissions globally – when individual nation-states lack the jurisdiction to reach global emissions. In addition, public regulators and private firms may benefit from dialogue over issues of design in ways that improve the effectiveness or justice of climate policy and practice. Finally, I argue that private emissions trading and carbon taxes send an expressive message – that everyone, including the private sector, has an obligation to take action to address climate change. In the absence of a single “magic bullet” to combat climate change, action by multiple actors – public and private – may be the best option.


[1] 34 Stan. Envtl. L.J. 3 (2015).

[2] Michael P. Vandenbergh, Private Environmental Governance, 99 Cornell L. Rev. 129, 133 (2013) (arguing that private environmental governance should be recognized as a form of law); Sarah E. Light & Eric W. Orts, Parallels in Public and Private Environmental Governance, 5 Mich. J. Envtl. & Admin. L. (forthcoming 2015) (arguing that public and private actors employ parallel forms of the primary categories of instruments to address environmental problems, including prescription, property rights, market approaches, tradable permits, informational governance, procurement and insurance).

[3] Light, supra note 1, at 31-41.

[4] Tamara “TJ” DiCaprio, Microsoft Corp., Becoming Carbon Neutral: How Microsoft is Striving to Become Leaner, Greener, and More Accountable (2012), available at; Tamara “TJ” DiCaprio, Microsoft Corp., The Carbon Fee: Theory and Practice (2013), available at

[5] See Carbon Fee, supra note 4, at 15, 36 (recommending Microsoft cloud-based software to monitor and report emissions; discussing increased efficiency of using cloud computing).


[7] BP Sustainability Review 2013 8 (2013), available at; CO2 Emissions from Fossil Fuel Combustion (2014), available at

[8] CDP Global 500 Climate Change Report 2013 8, 56 (2013), available at Sixteen American firms make the list of top fifty emitters of greenhouse gases (in alphabetical order): Air Products & Chemicals, American Electric Power, Apache, AT&T, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Devon Energy, Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, E.I. du Pont de Nemours, Exelon, ExxonMobil, FedEx, Occidental Petroleum, Praxair, and Wal-Mart.

The preceding post comes to us from Sarah Light, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, WhartonSchool. The post is based on her recent article entitled “The New Insider Trading: Environmental Markets within the Firm”, which is available here.

Rethinking our Relationship with Resources

By Patrick Cairo, Senior Vice President, SUEZ Environnement North America

5 9674-2Humanity’s relationship with the environment has reached a turning point. Ecosystems and economies are in transition and in trouble. Growing populations are exhausting an increasingly degraded climate and environment. Overburdened and obsolete infrastructure is in desperate need of investment. Taken together, all of this amounts to a gathering resource crisis on a global scale.

At SUEZ Environnement we recognize this mounting resource crisis as an opportunity – to lead the way from a crisis to a resource revolution.

On a global scale, we are advocating for a transition to a circular economy. That transition from an economy that over-consumes natural resources to an economy that optimizes management and use of resources can make a strong contribution to carbon reduction goals and go a long way towards securing resources for the future.

On a local scale, we are implementing concrete and measurable resource management solutions in collaboration with citizens, governments and industries.

From my vantage point, we can’t talk about our natural resources without talking about infrastructure. Infrastructure is the conduit for all of our resources––for their capture, their transport and their delivery.

california water waste CaptureOur water infrastructure––which stretches more than 30 times the length of the interstate highway system––is aging and leaking. In some parts of the U.S. our water infrastructure wastes more water than it delivers. Shockingly every day, approximately 6 billion gallons of water are lost to avoidable leaks––enough water to supply the entire state of California.

IMG_2027Speaking of opportunities in challenges, over the next two decades, our nation needs to collectively dedicate some $4.8 trillion to our water infrastructure just to maintain a state of good repair––with nearly $400 billion needed just to maintain a safe supply of drinking water. SUEZ Environnement, in partnership with KKR, developed a framework to tap the billions in private capital that has been described as “waiting on the sidelines” to invest in infrastructure projects.

Specifically, in Middletown, PA, and Bayonne, NJ we have implemented a win-win solution that brings together city authorities and private equity funds to finance local infrastructure needs and improve water quality.

Combining our own operational expertise with private equity’s long-term investment power, we are rebuilding outdated water treatment and sanitation systems and installing state-of-the-art smart metering technology that reduces wasteful leaks.

We need to act now to make infrastructure the centerpiece of our resource revolution––the foundation upon which we secure a safer, more prosperous future for all.

Innovative Capital Deployment – Helping Business Adapt to Climate Change

by Dr. Sanjay Patnaik

Scientific research has provided clear evidence that anthropogenic climate change will become one of the most important challenges for mankind in the next century. Recent trends indicate unequivocally that many of the expected physical consequences of climate change are already occurring in various parts of the world (e.g., the melting of ice in the Polar Regions etc.). Our current economic system – highly dependent on carbon-intensive forms of energy production – will have to undergo significant changes if we want to mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects.

One of the most important roles for any mitigation and adaption efforts will fall on companies as they are our main organizational unit for conducting economic activities. Not only will firms have to carefully assess the risks associated with climate change, but innovative companies will be able to generate and exploit new opportunities that arise because of climate change. This is particularly relevant for investors who can foster the development of low-carbon technologies through the targeted innovative deployment of capital. While regulatory measures to establish a price for carbon will be crucial to provide necessary external incentives, private capital will play an even more important role in helping our economy adapt to climate change and foster mitigation efforts.

In Panel One of the 8th Annual IGEL Conference on April 22nd, we will explore how capital and smart investments in new technologies can become crucial tools for tackling the challenges presented by climate change. A distinguished panel of experts and thought leaders from a variety of backgrounds will provide their views on a range of topics such as what risks firms will face because of climate change, what role capital should play in addressing climate change and what business opportunities related to climate change are most promising for innovative investors and entrepreneurs. The theme of the panel aims to highlight that climate change can be as much an opportunity as a challenge and that firms will have to conduct a proper assessment of risks and potential benefits that arise from climate change if they want to remain competitive in a future low-carbon economy.

Sanjay Patnaik is a Visiting research Scholar at the Wharton School and an Assistant Professor of Strategic Management and Public Policy at the George Washington University.

Sustainable Goods, Renewed Lives

By Meredith Mosbacher

Every product has a story, whether we look for it or not. It has an origin, a maker, and a composition. Sometimes the origin of an item is vague: “Imported,” it might say. We are left to wonder (or maybe not) from where and whom it derives. Although becoming more common, it is relatively rare to find a product that has a backstory and additionally, may be environmentally sound and socially empowering.

TO THE MARKET (TTM), a socially inspired business, loves a story though—it’s what inspires us. We use the free market to address longstanding social justice issues by promoting goods made by and stories told by survivors of abuse, conflict, and disease. By working with more than 20 organizations (that we call Local Partners) from around the world that employ survivors to produce beautiful, compelling products, we’re trying to remind customers of the time when people knew their maker—and their maker’s family.

TO THE MARKET’s relationship with our Local Partners employing survivors is threefold. We assist them by (a) promoting their survivor-made goods through multiple distribution channels, including pop-up shops, custom sourcing, retail partnerships, and our online marketplace; (b) offering a platform for survivors and their champions to share their stories with a new, larger audience through the TO THE MARKET Stories and Huffington Post blogs; and by (c) providing tailored services, such as trend forecasting and basic mental health resources, to improve production and management.

Red Light-40The term “Local Partner” denotes TO THE MARKET’s relationship with these organizations, as well as describes the materials from which they source. For example, the women of All Across Africa, based in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya, weave together baskets by winding stripped-down sisal leaves around bundles of sweet grass. TO THE MARKET partners with Kolkata, India-based Freeset to create custome bags and shirts; Freeset uses 100% organic cotton for their shirts and sews their bags using the Jute plant found on banks of the Ganges. To the North in Dehradun, India, JOYN employs one group of survivors to spin raw local cotton, another group of survivors to block print the cotton fabric, and a third group to sew the bags or home goods.   In Haiti, the artisans of Vi Bella upcycle discarded paper, plastic, and glass bottles and bottle caps to create jewelry

The materials used speak to a broader phenomenon. The use of indigenous and sustainable resources and the use of upcycling echo the renewal that is occurring in these artisans’ lives. They are women who have survived adversity and have found strength through the dignity of work. They have taken hold of their own lives and found economic independence. And with this independence they not only help themselves, but also their families and communities. An ecosystem of compassion is created and sustained, and we get to share that good news when people purchase their products. TO THE MARKET helps to expand this ecosystem. By assisting local partners around the world, TO THE MARKET takes an active role in equipping the survivor’s that they employ with economic independence while raising awareness of the challenges that they face.

To learn more about TO THE MARKET, or to explore sourcing eco-friendly, survivor-made custom products for your next event or corporate needs, email



Wharton’s Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department Welcomes Brian Berkey of Stanford University

Brian Berkey, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University, will join the Legal Studies and Business Ethics Department at the Wharton School.

Brian is interested in a range of philosophical issues raised by climate change, including the grounds and extent of our collective mitigation obligations, whether individuals have potentially demanding obligations to reduce their personal greenhouse gas emissions, and the relationship between accounts of “climate justice” and broader theories of global and intergenerational justice. His article “Climate Change, Moral Intuitions, and Moral Demandingness” appeared in Philosophy and Public Issues in 2014.

More information on Brian’s work can be found here.

The Agrarian Group’s Commitment to Long-term Sustainability

by Dylan Straughan

The Agrarian Group (TAG) is an agricultural technologies company that is based in Philadelphia, PA. We create, develop, and commercialize technologies and products that reduce the resource intensity of products in our current industrial food complex. TAG’s technologies and products focus on all aspects of the agricultural supply chain, from production to distribution and marketing.

Sustainability is truly at the core of The Agrarian Group. The company was born out of the onslaught of reports from the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United States Department of Agriculture, as well as many other organizations, depicting the massive resource constraints that the human race will face within the next 20 to 50 years. No longer can we be focused solely on the economic cost of an agricultural product — a broader, more in depth measure of impact must be considered. Current agricultural practices are one of the principle driving forces for climate change, water scarcity, and deforestation, as well as several other disastrous trends that are already causing unprecedented implications for our continued survival on this planet.

It has been said that humanity’s greatest capability is the ability to adapt – whether it be to a new situation, a new technology, or even a new climate. The Agrarian Group is helping create a future where humans will be able to survive on this earth sustainably, without devastating its resources or environments. Agriculture was the greatest advancement in our species’ history, allowing for the specialization of trades, commerce, and the beginning of civilization itself. The Agrarian Group believes that that it is where we need to begin, to adapt, and to thrive.

For more information, please visit:

Is Carbon Emission Trading Scheme feasible in China?

By HU Tao, WU Yanyang, ZHOU Lihuan

On November 12, a joint statement on climate change came after the presidents of the world’s two largest economies met in Beijing, following the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings. In this joint statement which draws applause worldwide, China and the U.S. revealed for the first time both countries’ post-2020 goals of coping with climate change. The United States has set a target of reducing its emissions by 26 to 28 percent below its 2005 level in 2025, while China has pledged to achieve the peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 and increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030.[1] Earlier this year, during the UN Climate Change Summit in New York City, China’s Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli pledged China would aim to cap emissions or have GHGs peak “as early as possible”.

So what kind of actions should China do? According to the views of many experts, the US experiences can serve as a template for China. About 15 years ago, U.S. EPA supported China to establish SO2 pilot emission trading programs, but almost all of the programs were failed[2]. This is an old story in last century, both China and the world have undergone tremendous changes over the next 15 years. China is now the world’s biggest-emitting nation, accounting for 28 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The government is putting a range of policies in place to help hit that goal. Although China has been relatively slow to jump on the carbon market bandwagon, it’s now clear a carbon market is also part of the plan.[3] Since 2011, the Chinese government has embarked on one of the largest endeavors in climate economics ever, to establish a national carbon emission trading system by 2016.[4] China has already introduced seven regional pilot markets in a bid to gain experience ahead of a nationwide program, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Guangdong and Hubei, to set regional caps and institute pilot programs for trading rights as part of its initiative to cut the intensity of emissions by as much as 45 percent before 2020 from 2005 levels. The success or failure of those experiments will to a large extent determine the future of climate policies in China.

China's pilot carbon trading

China’s pilot carbon trading markets. The size of the bubble represents the amount of emissions covered by each scheme. Source: CartoDB.

All the markets are experiencing teething problems. Some spurt in volumes and price occurred in the first 16 weeks in Shenzhen Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) with total transactions of more than 114,000 tons of CO2 allowances[5]. But the trading was muted in the following 6 weeks with only 16,000 tons of CO2 allowances[6]. Although Song Ranping, the Team Leader of the Climate & Energy Program in World Resources Institute’s China office, considers the ETS projects to be a strong starting point for a market-based approach to constrain emissions in China[7], it is still necessary to provide some insights about feasibility of China carbon ETS. For starters, China’s political culture and recent history means many participants have little experience of this sort of trading. But from the side of government, the scenario is slightly different. According to the data announced by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Chinese enterprises had traded over 8.56 million tons of carbon emission quotas as of June 29, and the quotas were sold for 338 million yuan, making China a major carbon trader, second only to the European Union. That’s why Chinese officials and carbon market experts urge tolerance, despite only a few trades a day with many firms struggling to understand how to trade.

Another big concern is the fierce competition between current pilot ETS regions in China for the title of “carbon financial center”, because of the allure of the huge carbon financial market. So it’s not strange to find that Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Beijing are all advocating the same slogans: “building China’s national carbon financial center”, while Hubei Province even goes further, whose ambitious target is “building the world carbon financial center”. Such competition is considered by LIAO Zhenliang, a scholar from UNEP, to be the biggest hurdle for NDRC to develop a nationwide carbon trading system which may be introduced as early as 2016.

Despite such issues, maybe the current biggest problem about China’s carbon ETS is governance issue. Without public information, the pricing mechanism would be opaque. In China, officials have divulged the size of the overall cap in most markets, but not always the historic emissions data on which the caps are based nor the precise number of allowances handed out.[8] Furthermore, some companies can’t provide robust records of their historical emissions, and regulators don’t have the tools to verify the companies’ estimates.[9]

Is data accurate and reliable?

Environmental data fraud is already an open secret in China. China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) recently punished 19 corporations for last year’s desulfurization data fraud, including many state-owned enterprises (SOEs) directly controlled by the Chinese Central Government. Companies in the state-controlled and district-controlled area have all installed the pollution control line monitoring equipment, so that the local environmental protection bureaus can monitor them for 24 hours every day, but no problem can be found only from the data, said Guo Peng, the director of Ningxia Environmental Enforcement Bureau. While according to Xu Yang’s opinions, who is the chief engineer of Shandong Provincial Environmental Information and Monitoring Center, there are more than 10 kinds of data fraud methods by interfering with the normal operation of automatic monitoring equipment, and such methods can be divided into two major categories. One is by modifying the operating parameters of the device software, to make the substandard data looks good. For example, as the actual monitoring emission concentration is 1000 mg per cubic meter, adding a 0.1 coefficient into the calculating process by the software can make the final result become 100 milligrams per cubic meter. The other method is through the destruction of the sampling system to change the actual data, such as adding dilution equipment on the sampling tube, unplugging the sampling probe, or disconnecting the sampling system to make the emission samples cannot be collected by the monitoring equipment.[10]

An accurate and reliable emission data is a fundamental basis for ETS, but both properties are questioned in China for two reasons, the indirect measurement method and China’s bad reputation for data quality. The emission data in China’s ETS is indirectly calculated rather than directly monitored by equipment. The indirect calculation uses emission factors multiplied by activity data, such as gas pump receipt. As data is solely provided by companies, the accuracy of data cannot be ensured as companies can manipulate and underreport activity data within a certain range without being found.

Emission data is hardly credible if official data, which is ensured by quality framework, is not trustworthy. China’s official statistics are not as reliable as those produced in the U.S. and Europe, and manipulation remains an important cause of unreliable statistics, according to a study conducted by U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission[11], a commission created by U.S. Congress. For example, Henglanzhen in Zhongshan, a town located 84 miles west of Shenzhen, was discovered of providing fraud statistics[12]: the reported gross output of 71 industrial companies in 2012 was 8.5 billion RMB, but it was only 2.2 billion RMB after auditing and investigating by National Bureau of Statistics of China, only a quarter of the original statistics.

The unreliability of China’s official statistics further renders ETS ineffective, as ETS fixes the GDP emission intensity to meet its carbon emission reduction goals. Unlike European Union ETS, which fixes amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted, China ETS will adjust the emission allowances to maintain a fixed emissions-to-GDP ratio according to companies’ Industrial Added Value (part of GDP) each year. The emission allowances cannot be accurate if emission data and GDP are not accurate.

Are validation entities capable and objective?

Emission data need to be validated to ensure accuracy and reliability after calculating by companies. The capability of a validation entity is demonstrated by relevant certificates, such as Certificate of Accreditation and Provisional Designation issued by United Nations (UN)[13]. Only two of seven validation entities designated by Shenzhen ETS obtained certificates from UN. The rest five validation entities do not have any credibility, nor experience to conduct greenhouse gas emission validation.

The validation entities also need to be independent to validate emission data objectively. If a validation entity is funded by government or affiliated to government, the validation process might be under influence of government. Five of seven validation entities in Shenzhen ETS are government’s affiliation or funded by government. If the capability and objectivity of validation entities come into question, then good data quality is not ensured.

Are there other options?

Based on our analysis above, China is still not ready for carbon ETS, and need to overcome several obstacles. But China has already established other tools to reduce carbon emissions, such as resource tax, which has included coal already.[14] When tax is placed at the beginning of the coal consumption, the abatement would include not only CO2, but also other pollutants discharged by coal-fired power plant, such as SO2, NOx, and suspended particles. This is because the higher the coal price, coal-fired power plant will make more efforts to promote the efficiency, such as upgrading to supercritical and ultra-supercritical boilers and turbines, and using more renewable energies which are cleaner. As economic instruments to encourage reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, coal tax has its advantages and disadvantages. If a coal tax is used, then the costs of emissions reduction are fixed – but the emissions target becomes unclear, and it is difficult to know if businesses will opt to make cuts. Some may prefer to just pay the tax, which will not help reduce emissions.[15]

To control coal consumption or pollution at the beginning of industrial chain is more effective and suitable for China today than controlling pollutions at enterprises or companies level, because it reduces various pollutions in a consistent way, rather than through different individual policies. Sometimes, individual policies are contradictory. For example, China plans to cut emissions of SO2 in 2015 by 8% comparing the level in 2010.[16] However, every ton of SO2 reduced at the coal-fired power plant will increase 5.41 tons of CO2 which offsets CO2 emission reduction efforts. China should have set up coal trading programs to reduce coal consumption, rather than setting up carbon trading programs.


Although it’s a good start to arouse companies’ awareness of emission reduction by putting a price tag on CO2, due to a lack of reliable emissions data, inadequate capacity to integrate carbon trading into business models, and restrictions with regard to the development of derivatives and futures markets, whether the ETS pilots will be effective is still a question with such challenges in CO2 emissions reduction. As the international Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) market collapsed, China’s nascent carbon markets have attracted global attention. China must learn lessons from European failures, and the policymakers should make some changes after taking stock of this first round of ETS experiments. China should increase data quality for both official and unofficial data, and establish carbon certification system, however, these tasks are hard to accomplish in short term. From a short-term policy feasibility perspective, the coal resources tax and carbon tax might be more efficient than the carbon trading mechanism. Through the establishment of a coal tax, and setting the schedule of tax rate adjustments based on the overall emission reduction targets, government can make changes in the cost of carbon emissions become predictability, and businesses can identify future production and the corresponding energy conservation technological innovation based on their own situation. In addition, introducing coal tax can avoid the thorny issue of allocation of emissions quotas, so that the government can flexibly implement emission reduction obligations according to economic performance by adjusting the level of taxation. Thus, compared to the carbon ETS, coal tax or overall coal consumption control may be more suitable for China’s current critical situation.

[1] The White House. FACT SHEET: U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change and Clean Energy Cooperation. Retrieved from

[2] The development of China’s pollution rights trading faces difficulties: The effect of pilots is not good. (2011, November 8). The Economic Reference. Retrieved from

[3] Mat Hope (2014). Analysis: China’s big carbon market experiment.

[4] Han, G., Olsson, M., Hallding, K., & Lunsford, D. (2012). China’s carbon emission trading: an overview of current development.

[5] Yang L. (2013, October 9). Investors are successful in carbon market. Nanfang Daily. Retrieved from

[6] Shenzhen carbon ETS has transactions of more than 130,000 tons] (2013, November 30). Retrieved from

[7] Song R. (2013, June 21). Emissions trading in China: First steps and the road ahead. Retrieved from

[8] Pilita Clark. (May 13, 2014). The ‘black hole’ of Chinese carbon trading. Retrieved from

[9] Mat Hope (Sep 2, 2014). Analysis: China’s big carbon market experiment. Retrieved from


[11] Weser I. (2013, January 28). The reliability of China’s economic data: An analysis of national output. Retrieved from

[12] Liu Z. (2013, June 14). Bureau of Statistics exposes fake data reported by Henglan Town, Zhongshan, Guangdong. Xinhua News. Retrieved from

[13] List of DOEs. (2014). Retrieved January 15, 2014, from

[14] China considers resource tax to include coal. (2013, May 9). UPI. Retrieved from


[16] State Council issued statement on 12th Five-year plan of energy saving and emission reduction. (2012, August 6). Retrieved from

A New Force in International Development: Why did China propose to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank?

By HU Tao, LU Xuege, ZHU Li

In November this year, China will likely launch the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) when leaders in the Asia Pacific region meet at this year’s APEC summit in Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping first unveiled the AIIB plan during his visit to Indonesia in October last year. Since then, China has held five rounds of consultations with countries in the region and successfully recruited 21 founding members. Mr. Jin Liqun, the Former Finance Minister of China and Vice President of ADB, is to be appointed as first President of AIIB, according to the proposal of Chinese Government.

With AIIB, China, now almost the worlds’ largest economy by purchasing power, aims to “promote interconnectivity and economic integration in the region”. It is also seen by some as an effort by China to harness its vast financial resources and infrastructural expertise to expand its regional influence. So what’s behind this new initiative?


There are many reasons of course. A primary one is that China’s rising economic and financial strengths call for a corresponding power increase reflected in major multilateral development banks and international financial agencies. However, the current capital shares and voting rights for China as well as other BRICS countries are disproportionately low in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (Figure 1).

IMF-World Bank Group

In contrast, the AIIB as well as BRICK Development Bank will provide an alternative avenue for China and other emerging economies to have a bigger say in financing infrastructure in the region. In addition, the new capital made available by AIIB will provide much needed investment in the region where infrastructure development needs remain extraordinarily high.

Other considerations?

Besides seeking stronger influence that matches its rising economic power, China has other financial, economic and geopolitical considerations for creating the AIIB.

First, China’s pursuit of the internationalization of its currency RMB will greatly benefit from the AIIB. Given that China and the ASEAN are looking to double their two-way trade by 2020, settling accounts through RMB under AIIB would substantially elevate China’s financial status in the global currency market.

Economically there is also the growing need for China to tap into the markets overseas. Equipped with formidable experience and technology in infrastructure development it has accumulated in recent years, China is on the lookout to invest heavily in transportation and infrastructure construction in the region, such as highways, railroads, sea ports, and airports. For example, in October 2013, China expressed its interest to participate in the high-speed rail project in Thailand. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

In addition, China and the ASEAN have also agreed to promote further economic cooperation in a wide range of sectors, from civil aviation, maritime development, environment protection, to agriculture, information technology, human resources development, and tourism. AIIB will no doubt provide the indispensable financing to strengthen such bilateral economic ties.

From a geopolitical perspective, to establish such a bank is also strategically significant to enhance the China–ASEAN Free Trade Area and China’s relationship with the ASEAN members.

Why Asia?

It is in China’s interests to set its sights on Asia. Many Asian countries, though keen on driving economic growth through inbound foreign direct investment, are faced with the almost insurmountable challenges of securing funding from traditional multinational development banks and bilateral funds, which are often known to be slow, inefficient and insistent on additional conditions. AIIB, as a result, might provide an alternative option for these countries. For members of the ASEAN, having one more investment player to bid for their projects means lower financial risks and more negotiation power, hence a better chance of getting a more favorable deal. China, with an immense foreign exchange reserve at its command, has the means and confidence to go head to head with big players like Japan and its finance arm Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

In a broader context, this is consistent with China’s strategy to increase its regional influence incrementally. Such efforts began with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Development Bank, proposed in 2010 to strengthen China’s economic ties with the rest of the Eurasian nations. AIIB is a further step in this direction with a focus on Lower Mekong countries. Why infrastructure?

Despite substantial growth in recent years, the ASEAN countries still faces challenges to overcome their infrastructure deficit and bottleneck. According to the Asian Development Bank, Asia needs to invest about $8 trillion in national infrastructure and $290 billion in regional infrastructure between 2010 and 2020 to sustain its growth trajectory. It is against this backdrop that AIIB, as a new multinational financial institution that answers the infrastructure needs of the region, rises to the occasion.

Our concerns

With the creation of AIIB, we have reason to believe that the infrastructure development in the region will be markedly sped up. While this greatly improves the physical interconnectivity between countries and facilitates trade flows across national borders, it will also pose mounting challenges for biodiversity conservation in the region. For example, large scale infrastructure will further encroach into natural habitats, intensify the human interference on wildlife, and aggravate wildlife trafficking, to name a few. How to encourage the AIIB to incorporate credible environmental safeguards into its lending policies presents both a challenge and an opportunity for WWF and its conservation partners.

3) IFC, IBRD, IDA, MIGA are members of the World Bank Group.

Following the Green Brick Road with MES and IGEL to Real-World Sustainability

By: Nathan Sell*

January to July 2014 were the quickest and perhaps busiest months of my life to date. As a Masters student in the Environmental Studies program at Penn I was finishing up my degree, joining the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) team, and job hunting. My time at IGEL was an invaluable experience in many ways. I joined in the thick of event planning just as the annual conference and a host of other events were all being planned.  This “trial by fire” had me leveraging my new knowledge as an MES student, as well as my educational background, and building a new set of communications and outreach skills.

I was in awe at the audience that IGEL has and the power that its events have to bring together leaders in sustainability and push the discussion on what companies can do for business and the environment. A lot of the skills I refined while at IGEL both caught the attention of my current employers and have served me well in my new role.

As a participant in the ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education) program, I’m working with the EPA Office of Water at the headquarters in Washington, DC. As part of the Climate Change Team, I work on issues closely tied to sustainability.  Balanced between communications and research, a portion of my work is dedicated to facing EPA’s message to the public through social media and outreach. My research at the moment focuses on “Blue Carbon,” carbon sequestered within coastal marine ecosystems such as mangroves, sea grass beds, and salt marshes. Blue Carbon is getting a lot of attention, and for good reason. These ecosystems are shown to store carbon up to 100X faster than terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, and store this carbon for incredibly long periods of time. They’re part of the puzzle to building climate change resilience. Seeing how policy can be leveraged for additional protection and expansion of these threatened environments, and seeing where business can build blue carbon into international carbon markets are some of the drivers that will be increasingly important in the future.  It’s an exciting intersection of science, policy and business that I’m thrilled to be working on, and an amazing way to begin putting my MES degree and IGEL experience to use.

*Nathan is the former IGEL Coordinator and currently works with the EPA Office of Water on their Water Policy Staff.  @mister_sells

Adapting to Climate Change: Environmental Liability

By: Anthony Wagar

Over the past several years, more and more companies are becoming increasingly aware of climate change issues and the necessity for sustainability/resiliency planning.  This awareness comes in many forms but primarily centers on how their business might be affected financially (through legal liability, fines/penalties, government regulations, and financial disclosure requirements) or just simply public relations surrounding responsible corporate citizenship. 

As the climate change threat becomes more real, based upon its estimated path into the future, industries are preparing for the potential impact, the importance of sustainability planning and facing that possibility that they may need to be prepared to pay a price on their carbon output.

This is not isolated to only major oil companies or large manufacturing companies who utilize vast amounts of coal to generate energy (some companies that have already taken the initiative to consider sustainability planning include firms such as Microsoft, General Electric, Walt Disney, ConAgra Foods, Wells Fargo, DuPont, Duke Energy, Google and Delta Airlines just to name a few).

Storm Surge and/or Flooding

Adverse weather events such as flooding, storm surges, droughts and heat-wave could lead to unexpected clean-up costs and/or pollution legal liabilities issues.  A few “real life” examples illustrated below.

Historic/Pre-Existing Contamination

Properties having historical or pre-existing contamination could be disturbed and, subsequently, carry pollutants to multiple locations resulting in the cross-contamination of various parts of the property and/or neighbouring properties.


Heavy water infiltration can cause landslides carrying with it pollutants and/or contaminated waste water into nearby waterways or sensitive third party receptor areas.

Drums and Storage Tanks

Drums containing hazardous waste and storage tanks containing oils and other chemicals could be raised afloat and damaged during transport from their original locations, thereby distributing pollutants downstream.

Sewerage Authorities

Sewerage authorities have limited storage and processing capacity, therefore, large unanticipated volumes of water could result in the overflow and/or release of raw untreated sewage.

Mold Damage

Mold can grow at alarming rates given proper moisture, temperature range and food source (cellulose based substrate) following a saturation event.

“Green” Materials

Many environmental insurers are now providing coverage which give Insured’s an option to replace property with “green” materials following damage from pollutants, hence, further reducing their “carbon footprint” and addressing sustainability issues.

Many businesses experienced these scenarios during Hurricane Sandy, which resulted in costly remediation, bodily injury/property damage and staggering legal defense costs.

Droughts and Heat-Waves

While most of these loss scenarios discussed above would be addressed under a pollution legal liability policy, there are other “non-pollution” related environmental damages that would not be covered. For example:

Loss of Operating License

A major soft drink company lost their lucrative operating license in India because of an exhaustion of water resources used as raw material.

Supply Chain Disruption

A major footwear and clothing manufacturer was disrupted because an extreme weather event negatively affected cotton growth (which as one of their primary raw materials).

From a risk-management perspective, all of these exposures affect a company’s business risk and, ultimately, how insurers may view them in terms of underwriting appetite, coverage, premium, and limit for certain classes of risk.

While public policy and government intervention can help raise the importance and address the climate change issue, it’s actual corporations that can make the most impact through their own individual greenhouse gas reduction and sustainability efforts to ensure their own business success and longevity.

Climate change will continue to be one of the top concerns facing businesses across the board. Therefore, adapting proper risk management strategies and loss control planning measures early on is key.

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