BEIJING, Aug. 24 -- The carbon tariff proposed by the
United States is not only an excuse for protectionism dressed in green drag, but
also an act of provocation that will spur a trade war. The tariff would
hamstring the rebound from the global recession and hurt the interests of
The U.S. House of Representatives in June approved
the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act, which included a provision
that would let the U.S. levy duties on imports of carbon-intensive goods from
countries which do not have a binding target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG)
Imposing carbon duties on imported goods from
developing countries will help the US strengthen its competitiveness in
international markets and weaken the trade advantages of big manufacturers in
China, India and Brazil. Emerging economies more dependent on manufacturing will
bear the brunt of the cost of the duties, as their low-carbon technologies are
not as advanced as those in richer countries.
High energy-consuming and carbon-emitting industries
have shifted away from the U.S. into developing countries that are now in the
unenviable position of having to purchase the high-priced technologies to meet
environmental standards set by the U.S..
As the crucial international talks on climate change
to be undertaken in Copenhagen approach, Washington's change of heart on climate
change from negative to decidedly green will help the country beautify its
international image and put the U.S. delegation in an advantageous position at
the negotiation table.
In reality, the U.S. way of offsetting the cost of
its own carbon use is unfair to the developing countries and will meet wide
Levying carbon duties defies World Trade Organization
principles of free trade and most-favored nation status. The WTO agrees
countries cannot normally discriminate against their trading partners. Lowering
trade barriers is an obvious mean of encouraging trade. The barriers concerned
include customs duties, import bans and selective quotas.
Carbon tariffs, in essence, erect barriers to imports
into the U.S.. If the carbon tariff is levied, it will complicate the duty
system among countries, disturb the international trade order and eventually
provoke trade wars.
A carbon tariff does not abide by the common but
differentiated principle established by the Kyoto Protocol, an international
treaty, to define the varied responsibilities of developing and developed
countries for mitigating climate change.
Considering that rich countries have released much
more greenhouse gases throughout history than developing countries in per-capita
terms, the Kyoto Protocol agrees that developed countries should take a step
toward reducing their GHG emissions from 2009 to 2012, while the developing
countries lack a binding quantified target for cutting the emissions.
However, the levying of carbon taxes places an undue
onus on developing countries, which will see an economic loss. Currently, most
developing countries are engaged in the process of heavy industrialization,
which demands high energy consumption and large releases of greenhouse gas. Rich
countries, having already finished the process of industrialization, have even
outsourced some highly polluting industries to developing countries, leaving the
less fortunate with both more pollution and the burden of reducing those
China should intensify its participation in
international trade rulemaking and prevent carbon tariffs to be written into
international trade rules.
The international community should separate carbon
tariffs and climate change into separate issues to be negotiated by the WTO and
the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
China, as one of the world's biggest GHG emitters,
has adopted a positive attitude and taken action to reverse climate change.
Still, the country must speed its transition to a
low-carbon and sustainable development mode, because the shift is driven more by
demand from China's economic growth than by international pressure. The country
should strengthen its research and international collaboration on technology
development, especially on clean energy and improvements in energy efficiency.
As a signatory to the Kyoto
Protocol, China abides by the convention and is actively pushing forward the
post-2012 negotiation. China released its National Action Plan on Climate Change
in 2007 as the guideline to mitigate global warming.
The author is
a researcher with the Institute for International Economic Research affiliated with the National Development
and Reform Commission
(Source: China Daily)