China, S. Korea seek to cut emissions in daily life

China and South Korea are bringing the work of cutting emissions down to the consumer level, implementing “green credit cards” that swap consumer goods vouchers for proof on emission reduction, a carbon trading scheme that is making waves.

bike ride event Shanghai
A bike ride event in Shanghai, China. 2013. Image: Stephen Chin, CC BY-NC 2.0

Government officials, experts and representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from China and South Korea gathered in Beijing on Sept. 10 to share their views and experiences in cutting carbon dioxide emissions in people’s daily lives.

“It is a trend that emissions arising from investment-driven development will see a gradual drop, while consumption-based emissions will keep growing,” said He Jiankun, vice chairman of National Experts Panel on Climate Change and director of Institute of Low Carbon Economy of Tsinghua University.

He emphasised the need to guide the public to be low-carbon-oriented in their consumption habits and lifestyles, which will “bring changes to their production activities and industrial structure, and hence promote the building of a low-carbon society.”

In 2013, China rolled out the first round of pilot projects for low-carbon cities, and trials for trading carbon emissions rights were carried out in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Guangdong, Hubei and Shenzhen. It pledged last year to launch a nationwide carbon emission trading market in 2017.

Such a trading system mainly targets key industrial sectors, including iron and steel, electricity, chemicals, construction materials, papermaking and nonferrous metal. “It is important to make the market play the decisive role in resource allocation,” said He. “We also welcome the use of market tools to encourage the public to reduce emissions in their own way.”

Director Choi Min Ji from the South Korean Ministry of Environment echoed He’s opinion, adding that her country has been promoting market measures to arouse enthusiasm among its citizens to lead a greener life, including the green credit card scheme and the carbon labeling system.

It is a trend that emissions arising from investment-driven development will see a gradual drop, while consumption-based emissions will keep growing.

He Jiankun, vice chairman, National Experts Panel on Climate Change and director, Institute of Low Carbon Economy, Tsinghua University.

The green credit card scheme was launched in South Korea in 2011 to encourage consumers to adopt more sustainable lifestyle patterns by providing tangible economic rewards.

“Points are accumulated as rewards for saving on utility use – such as tap water, electricity and gas heating – using public transport or purchasing eco-friendly products,” said Choi. “Accumulated points can be used like cash to purchase products and services at a variety of places, such as hotels, restaurants and theaters. Points can also be used to buy eco-friendly products, such as hybrid cars or energy-efficient light bulbs.”

Statistics from BC Card show that 13 million green credit cards have been issued in the five years since the launch, accounting for a quarter of the country’s total population.

“The number is great and will keep growing. By using such bank cards, our customers can have full participation in energy conservation and environmental protection during their daily life,” said Jeon Jihwan, a team leader from BC Card.

Hosted by the South Korean Ministry of Environment and International Ecological Economy Promotion Association (IEEPA), the conference’s aim was to promote such successful practices as the green credit card scheme and launch relevant pilot projects in China.

Three South Korean NGOs – Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute, Korea Environment Corporation and Korea Climate & Environment Network – co-organised the conference.

This story was published with permission from

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