Self-serving calculations behind carbon tariff proposal

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As the international community strives to fight climate change, some developed countries have proposed carbon tariffs as a way to tackle global warming.

This move has raised eyebrows globally and left developing countries deeply concerned that it may be a disguised form of trade protectionism.

It is generally believed that carbon tariffs, if introduced, will not only undermine the global drive to fight climate change, but also hurt global trade and economy. Analysts believe that some developed countries intend to protect their own interests by touting carbon tariffs.


The so-called carbon tariffs refer to special carbon emission duties imposed by developed countries on imports of carbon-intensive goods.

The U.S. Clean Energy and Security Act, passed by the House of Representative on June 26, first unveiled clauses related to carbon tariffs.

The legislation allows the U.S. president, beginning from 2020, to impose duties on imports of carbon-intensive goods such as steel, cement, glass and paper from countries that have not taken measures to cut their own emissions.

The legislation, though unfinished, has sparked controversy at home and abroad over Washington's true intention: environment protection or trade protectionism.

The French National Assembly and the Senate voted in October and November respectively to pass a proposal to tax carbon dioxide emissions from next year. According to the proposal, the French government will apply a tax of 17 euros (25 U.S. dollars) per ton of emitted carbon dioxide from Jan. 1, 2010.

Months before the Copenhagen climate change talks, France argued that the EU should introduce carbon tariffs if the international community failed to reach an agreement on climate change at the conference.


Based on the word "carbon," developed countries are building up a new economic order. In the United States and Europe, carbon capital and finance begin to take shape, as relevant legislation, policy and trade systems and market expansion and advantage competition processes are nearing completion.

As experts said, Washington had three considerations when it decided to levy carbon tariffs on imported products: creating more jobs, protecting local industries and regaining its leadership in the global economy.

In the long run, the Obama administration chooses to stimulate the world's largest economy with the help of green industry instead of the crisis-prone industries and consumer goods production.

France has been another active supporter of "carbon tariffs" which could bring it potential economic benefits, as the country enjoys a low-carbon economy with most its electricity coming from carbon-free nuclear plants.

Besides, advocating "carbon tariffs" will gain France, which has always boasted itself as a pioneer in environmental protection, the moral high ground to strengthen its global influence.


As early as former French President Jacques Chirac first put forward the concept of "carbon tariffs," it was criticized by many as developed countries' way of lining their pockets at the expense of developing ones under the disguise of environmental protection.

Up to now, carbon tariffs touted by France and the United States has stirred protests in many countries.

Countries including Germany, Sweden and India have criticized the proposal for breaching the rules of the World Trade Organization and the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" stipulated in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, saying it would seriously hurt the interests of developing countries.

In late July, European ministers rallied against the French proposal of carbon tariffs at an informal meeting of EU environmental ministers.

In the United States, the Chamber of Commerce and National Foreign Trade Council voiced fears that imposing carbon tariffs might trigger a trade war and harm U.S. exports in the end.

In China, Commerce Minister Chen Deming had warned that carbon tariffs will become a new pretext for trade protectionism.

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