RICH COUNTRIES, RESPONSIBLE for over 90 per cent of today’s global warming, are seeking to penalise countries that had little role in polluting the world by imposing on them what amounts to a new carbon export tax.
The European Union’s (EU) carbon ‘tax’ is a tool to put a price on the carbon emitted while producing specific goods exported to EU. Called the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), the new EU levy violates every tenet of fair trade under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. It specifically violates the “common but differentiated responsibilities” over climate change agreed upon at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.
The EU’s carbon tax comes into force on October 1, 2023. India, along with South Africa and other developing countries, plans to retaliate by fixing the carbon content in EU imports and levying a duty based on the principle of reciprocity. Simultaneously, a challenge will be mounted at WTO against EU’s carbon tax masquerading by sleight of hand as the CBAM.
According to Indian officials, “The EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism is just a customs duty by another name. Going by the logic behind this levy, we are also free to impose a tax on imports taking into account historic carbon emissions by them. We are working out the contours of how a carbon tax will work. Retaliation can be in two ways. One is to do something similar, for which we need to measure the carbon content in imports. The second option is to retaliate on something else.”
Europe, historically the world’s biggest polluter, is now the world’s fastest-warming continent, according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization and EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. The report says that temperatures have risen in Europe by 2.3 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial 1700s. That’s twice the global rate of warming.
How did this happen? Between 1751 and 2022, the world emitted 1.6 trillion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Europe emitted 550 billion metric tonnes, one-third of the global total, as it industrialised. Emissions from Asia, Africa, and South America, which European powers such as Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and the Netherlands colonised, were negligible. Colonisers ensured that those they colonised did not industrialise. India’s total CO2 emissions since 1751 have been under 48 billion metric tonnes.
Having built industrialised, prosperous societies, Europe, the US, and Canada have been trying for years to impose tough carbon emission norms on developing nations like China and India.
Climate change is a global problem. While the historical responsibility for polluting the world’s atmosphere lies squarely with the rich world, every country needs to move rapidly towards clean energy. Europe has set 2050 as a deadline for achieving net-zero emissions. China has set 2060 for net zero, and India 2070, reflecting each geography’s varying stages of economic development.
Europe, the biggest culprit of global warming, has failed to honour its commitment to climate justice by financing efforts of developing countries to move towards clean energy
Share this on
Europe, the biggest culprit of historical global warming, has failed to honour its commitment to climate justice by financing the efforts of developing countries to move towards clean energy.
Europe and North America’s carbon-spewing industrialisation for over 200 years has despoiled the world’s atmosphere to crisis levels. Even cutting carbon emissions to recently agreed levels by all countries may not help. A recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report says that the Arctic is warming so rapidly that it may have ice-free summers by the 2030s.
According to Dick Notz, a Hamburg University oceanographer, “We basically are saying that it has become too late to save the Arctic summer sea ice. There’s nothing really we can do about this complete loss anymore because we’ve been waiting for too long.”
Climate justice requires the rich world to, first, honour its pledge to the Loss and Damage (L&D) fund agreed upon at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh in November 2022. As the world’s chief polluters, developed countries must step up to the plate. Targeting developing countries that missed the early Industrial Revolution because they were kept in colonised penury adds insult to injury.
EU’s new carbon export tax must go. If it doesn’t, India must lead developing nations in exposing the export tax for what it is: an attempt to railroad poorer countries into accepting carbon emission norms ahead of declared timelines while dishonouring the pledge on the L&D fund.
Ensuring justice for past global warming is the key to a cleaner and fairer future.