In China, agricultural waste products, particularly manure from animal husbandry, represent a local source of rural energy, which can possibly be utilised through simple biogas digesters, thereby promoting rural development. For at least 50 years China has promoted this among farmers, not only with the goal of providing local clean energy for rural development, but also to improve health and reduce pressure on fuelwood.

Until the early 2000s these policies failed or had limited impact, although substantial subsidy-based programmes in the past decade have led to considerable growth. However, field trip interviews suggest that this growth hides deep-rooted problems. For biogas to fulfil its potential, it is crucial that the policy adapts to the changing realities of Chinese livestock production.

Arguably, policies to promote rural biogas combine development goals with mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in a way that matches well with an SD-PAM mechanism. By submitting its rural biogas policies to an SD-PAM-based regime, China could gain access to technology and funding for large-scale biogas systems and/or opportunities to sell credits. However, it would need to adapt to the international requirements and to accept international monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).

Alternatively, China could register its rural biogas programme as a unilateral SD-PAM, with less strict MRV requirements. This may win China recognition for its domestic policies, but would then not provide a mechanism for bringing international knowhow or possible financing to China.

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