Reports UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering calling carbon border taxes at the G7 summit to be held in London in June, produced a predictable response from the Australian government.
The levies would impose tariffs on carbon-intensive products from countries like Australia that have not adopted carbon prices or a net zero emissions target for 2050.
Seeming shocked by the news, Energy Minister Angus Taylor said Australia dead against carbon tariffs.
It was a new form of protectionism designed to protect local industries from free trade.
In fact, they are already the politics of the European Union and in the United States, where the president Joe biden calls them a carbon adjustment tax against countries that do not meet their climate and environmental obligations. Canada, which has an economy-wide carbon price, is not worried.
Say that you are dead against something does not stop it, nor does it claim that it is anti-free trade, while it is just as questionable that it is in favor of fair trade because it denies exporters from countries who do not take action against climate change an unfair advantage.
Australia is not the main target
The mining industry itself made this point when the Gillard government introduced the short-lived carbon price in Australia.
This would leave Australian exporters at a disadvantage compared to international competitors.
Australia is by no means the primary target. The main objective of the carbon tariffs would be to encourage Chinese leader Xi Jinping to move his country’s zero emission date from 2060 to 2050, for the benefit of the rest of the world.
Read More: Vital Signs: A Global Carbon Price May Be A Reality Soon Australia Should Prepare
If Xi Jinping does, Hell will be on a par with much of the world, but not with Australia, whose fate, like that of British Admiral Byng in 1757, would be used. to encourage others.
in the absence of a carbon pricing agreement, which would be far better, charging the same carbon prices to the same products, regardless of where they are produced, could help avoid shifting emissions out of the way. the EU to countries with different standards
The World Trade Organization, which has in the past repulsed against environmental considerations in trade, is sterilized.
Powerless World Trade Organization
In the late 1990s, the WTO rolled back a series of environmental restrictions imposed by the United States that required imported tuna to be labeled Dolphin safe and forced shrimp fishermen to take action to protect turtles.
These decisions turned out to be disastrous for the WTO, sparking fierce hostility from the environmental movement and contributing to mass protests at the 1999 WTO meeting, known as the Battle of Seattle and finally killed the Doha Round of Trade Negotiations.
At present, the WTO is in the organizational equivalent of an induced coma. By refusing to fill vacancies as they arise, the Trump administration denied its appeals committee a quorum, forcing it to stop hearing cases.
The result is that any appeal to the WTO against tariffs at the carbon border would be left in limbo. US President Joe Biden has accepted the appointment of a new WTO director general, blocked by Trump, but is in no rush to reinstate the appeals body.
Instead, it will first try to recast the WTO into an organization that supports its own policies, including stronger environmental measures, carbon tariffs and Buy American provisions. Once reformed, the appeals body will give the Australian government complaints short term.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has shown some signs of acknowledging these realities, taking small steps towards announcing a zero emissions target for 2050.
But time is running out. Morrison will either have to face deniers and do nothing on his side of politics, or himself, and Australia, to a series of humiliations on the international scene, with real and damaging consequences.