As the world warms, the growing use of air conditioners (“ACs”) and other cooling equipment becomes essential for human comfort and public health. In addition, cooling-equipment energy and refrigerant consumption also presents tremendous climate mitigation opportunities. The most efficient ways to capture much of the climate benefit lie in the hands of a small number of AC manufacturing and exporting countries, including China, which manufactures over 80% of global room ACs with a large amount of this cooling equipment destined for export. This article highlights one of China’s policies, the “Same Line, Same Standard and Same Quality” policy (“Same-Line Policy” or “Policy”), intended to support economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and address the export challenges that have negatively affected Chinese industries and products on the global market. Through the Policy, the Chinese government encourages manufacturers of consumer and industrial products to sell products within China that were produced for markets outside China according to standards exceeding those for products produced for the Chinese market. The Policy, and the associated information and business-platforms that the government established to ensure policy success, aim to improve the domestic economic situation through consumption of products previously destined for export markets but which are not being sold because of the economic downturn during the pandemic. Policies like these, representing a course of action that China’s leadership endorses, can drive changes in Chinese law, including changes that address loopholes in the law that allow environmentally harmful activities to continue. The Same-Line Policy provides an opportunity for global climate-mitigation, public health, and other benefits that should not be missed.

In this article, Section II provides background on how China’s cooling industry situation presents a unique opportunity for climate change mitigation. Section III details a new climate strategy which applies the Same-Line Policy to cooling equipment, such as ACs (including energy-consuming AC components) exported by Chinese companies. In particular, the strategy will raise the efficiency of exported ACs to at least meet China’s minimum energy efficiency standards, particularly the products destined for importing countries that either lack any minimum energy performance standards for such products or have minimum energy performance standards which are lower than those applied to such products in China. Section IV explains how this strategy fits into China’s broader policy priorities such as development of a green “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) and promotion of “Made in China 2025.” The adoption of this strategy would eventually aid the AC industry in overcoming global trade barriers and advance its technical innovation. Section V identifies legal and policy options that would enable China’s application of its Same-Line Policy to AC exports. Section VI concludes with a set of key takeaways for policymakers and stakeholders.