EU ‘carbon tax’ deemed as unilateral act

Such action will damage global efforts to fight climate change, official says

A European Union proposal to introduce a “carbon border tax” is a violation of multilateralism and will damage global efforts in tackling climate change, a Chinese official said.

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Commissioner Frans Timmermans said in October that research would soon begin on a so-called Carbon Border Adjustment, a tax to protect European firms from unfair competition by raising the cost of products imported from countries with inadequate climate action, Reuters reported.

Timmermans is the European Commission’s executive vice-president-designate for the European Green Deal. The tax is intended to shelter EU businesses striving to meet a goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050.

Lu Xinming, deputy director-general of climate change at China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said that such a tax would amount to unilateralism as does the US decision to withdraw from 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Lu is also deputy secretary-general of the Chinese delegation to the United Nations climate change conference in Madrid, Spain. Opening on Dec 2, the climate conference will last till Dec 13.

“These unilateral acts will seriously undermine the international community’s willingness and confidence to cope with climate change. Eventually, they will affect the collective efforts of the world in addressing climate challenge,” he said.

China will firmly send out strong signals to support multilateralism, he added.

He Jiankun, chairman of a committee of Tsinghua University’s Institute for Climate Change and Sustainable Development, warned that the unilateral action of EU may cast “inestimable influences”.

“Now we are upholding and implementing the Paris agreement, which includes a bottom-up architecture and a mechanism that each country determines their contributions to promote reduction of carbon emissions,” he said.

Under the Paris agreement, countries must negotiate to reach consensus before the implementation of international governance mechanisms, upholding multilateralism, he said.

He also said rolling out such a unilateral measure could affect the friendly atmosphere of countries working collectively to promote global climate progress.

Ahead of this week’s formal presentation of Nobel Prizes, laureates gathered in Stockholm also stressed the importance of involvement of multiple countries in tackling climate change.

Esther Duflo, one of the economics laureates, cautioned that dealing with climate change “will require a change in behavior, particularly in the rich countries” that are heavy consumers of goods and energy.

Zhao Yingmin, Chinese vice-minister of ecology and environment told a news conference late last month in Beijing that China would continue to play a constructive role, safeguard multilateralism, and do its best to promote the success of this year’s UN climate conference.

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