The mainland has embarked on bold initiatives to reign in pollution that, if put into practice, will make the nation a leader in the battle against global warming. Much will be lost if the effort is not pursued strenuously, however: as the world's most populous country and one of the biggest producers of the polluting gases blamed for climate change, China has perhaps the most to lose from droughts, higher temperatures and more extreme weather conditions. In recent days, deals have been struck in Guangdong for the province's biggest carbon emissions trading scheme and in Beijing to set up the nation's first exchange and brokerages to trade credits to cut the gas. Last week, a pilot trading scheme for electricity companies in Hong Kong and Guangdong involving three key pollutants was launched. These are encouraging moves for the mainland, which, as a developing nation, does not have to participate in such schemes as dictated by the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. But authorities are well aware that at present development trends, the nation will overtake the US as the world's biggest producer of carbon dioxide by 2009. Mainland officials want to improve energy efficiency by 20 per cent in coming years and reduce dependency on coal and oil, which have fuelled the economic boom but also led to high pollution levels. Nonetheless, authorities have shied away from introducing mandatory emissions cuts, preferring instead to adopt a step-by-step approach through individual schemes. Emissions trading is widely recognised as the most effective means of ensuring factories and power plants burn less of the fossil fuels that produce gases such as carbon dioxide. However, they only work properly if there is transparency in transactions among companies. Problems with corruption, a lack of openness and the lack of the rule of law on the mainland means that the recently announced initiatives have to be greeted with some caution. Also, the expensive technology that can clean the emissions from factories and power plants is not widely available. Yet, there is considerable hope: the emissions bourse will be helped through the UN certifying the credits; and the Guangdong project involving a garbage plant has been signed with a British firm with expertise in carbon trading. A UN conference in Paris last Friday received a report predicting that global temperatures would rise by between 1.8 and 4 degrees Celsius this century, bringing worse droughts, higher sea levels and heat waves. Mainland leaders know that such changes will harm development goals and have vowed to do their best to fight the pollution blamed for causing global warming. They can only do this if their plans are fully implemented and rigorously monitored. The measures announced are gradually turning the nation in the right direction, but the impetus must continue, with even tougher steps.