New Delhi: India has opposed suggestions that countries that have cap-and-trade schemes to control carbon emissions—mostly developed countries—impose a carbon tax on imports from nations that don’t have such measures in place, made at the ongoing global climate talks in Bonn.
“The matter of any unilateral trade measure on imports in the name of climate action raises some concerns regarding the success of our discussions,” Vijay Sharma, secretary, ministry of environment and forests, said in his intervention on Tuesday.
“Such measures would only be tantamount to green protectionism and may burden the affected countries, particularly the developing countries, by subjecting them to similar mitigation obligations as of developed countries without any financial support,” Sharma said.
Developed and developing nations have been locked in a pitched battle over sharing the burden of reducing global carbon emissions, which scientists believe lead to global warming.
While nations in Europe and North America have historically emitted the bulk of atmospheric carbon in their pursuit of industrial development, they now want the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America to scale back their pace of development to reduce emissions.
Leading developing nations such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa insist the industrialized nations must transfer their technologies and offer financial support to them in return.
Even in the past, France and Italy have talked of a carbon tax on imports as a punitive measure against developing nations refusing to commit to reduce emissions. But this is yet to become a formal proposal.
A day before India’s intervention, a Brussels-based think tank, Centre for European Policy Studies, published a study concluding that the European Union should impose such border tariffs.
The study, titled Global Welfare Implications of Carbon Border Taxes, calculates the carbon intensity of exports from India to be 2.67 tonnes of carbon per $1,000 of exports, second just to Russia, which is at 3.85, and more than China at 2.46.
Such a tax will violate the regulations of the World Trade Organization (WTO), said Biswajit Dhar, director general, Research and Information System for Developing Countries, an Indian government-funded think tank that works on multilateral economic and social issues.
“There are only certain conditions under which (WTO) member countries can bring these trade restrictive measures. We found that these measures, carbon tarriffs, carbon equalization system are not going to be non-discriminatory and will be violative of WTO, where countries have taken commitments for open markets,” said Dhar.
At Bonn, Sharma has insisted that the issue be clearly stated in the convention’s shared-vision document, and be addressed along with other key issues relating to carbon emissions.
The Bonn talks, taking place under the aegis of the United Nations, will go on until next week. But no agreement is likely by then, or even by the end of the year, when the conference resumes at Cancun in Mexico.