Alternative Energy

Published on January 19th, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer


Will EU Apply Carbon Tariffs Against US Rogue States?

You may have thought that global climate legislation negotiations halted with the end of the Copenhagen talks.

But January 31st is the deadline for nations to add their final targets into the final document, when all negotiating parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are to present their pledges to the UN.

Image: Flikr user RenownPollute


The more ambitious EU member states, including the UK and Scandinavian countries, maintain that Europe should still go for the highest level it had offered, of 30% below 1990 levels, even in the absence of higher commitments from other nations.

Pressure continues to build on nations to commit to their higher targets. At the beginning of the month we saw Brazil step up to meet that goal with a legal post-Copenhagen document committing the nation to cut carbon emissions 39% by ending Amazon deforestation.

Environmental ministers from four of the big five emitters known as BASIC: Brazil, South Africa, India and China plan to meet on the 24th in new Delhi. Only the US representative (America is the fifth BASIC member) has not (yet?) announced its attendance.

Now France has added the threat of protectionism against imports from nations such as the US and China that export goods with a high carbon footprint because they were produced in states that use a high proportion of coal-powered electricity.

“We will not accept goods that fail to conform to our environmental standards,” the French leader was quoted in the French media as saying. “In future we will levy a climate tax at Europe’s borders.”

EU experts now expect border tariffs to return as more carbon-constrained nations seek to protect domestic production from international competitors with less stringent carbon rules. These carbon tariffs at the border would affect imports from the US, which has twice Europe’s carbon footprint.

But whether this carbon tariff would apply against exports from the entire United States or whether it might be more fairly applied just against highly carbon-polluting states within the US would be an interesting question.

In five states 90% of the electricity comes from coal: Wyoming, North Dakota, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, none of which have RPS legislation requiring any renewable power.

These polluter-states could see their export businesses threatened with carbon tariffs from the EU. Indeed, one of these states has already had the first carbon tariff applied at its domestic border with an RPS state.

The result would be that foreign legislative bodies could enforce climate legislation that our own congress has been unable to enact, held hostage as it is by our fossil fuel industry.

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