The latest knockoff to be produced in China is the carbon credit.

On Tuesday, the nation’s first carbon-trading program was launched in Shenzhen. Under the small pilot project, 635 companies responsible for 38 percent of the city’s carbon pollution began trading emission allowances. The program is scheduled to be expanded to six other areas by next year and then to the whole country before 2020. It will help China meet a national carbon cap that’s expected to be imposed by 2016.

China’s carbon-trading plans are modeled on similar programs underway in Europe, Australia, California, New England, and other large economies. In fact, carbon trading seems to be catching on with governments everywhere — except the United States.

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Though the Chinese program is starting off small, it’s expected to have big ramifications. From Reuters:

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While the exchange in the southern city of Shenzhen will not immediately lead to a big cut in China’s emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gas, now the world’s highest, it does still represent a statement of intent by Beijing, campaigners said.

“This is just a baby step when you look at the total quantity of emissions, but it enables China to establish institutions for carbon controls for the first time,” said Li Yan, head of environmental group Greenpeace’s climate and energy campaign in China.

This is one Chinese knockoff that environmentalists and indeed the whole world can welcome.