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Experts criticize EU carbon price plan

By Hou Liqiang | China Daily | Updated: 2021-11-09 08:56
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A European Union proposal to put a carbon price on some imported products is a unilateral act that may jeopardize joint global climate action, experts said at the First World Conference on Best Practicing of Carbon Neutrality in Beijing on Sunday.

The event was co-organized by the Silk Road Cities Alliance, the China-EU Association and the China-Europe Association for Technical and Economic Cooperation.

The experts made the remarks against the backdrop of a proposal adopted by the European Commission on July 14 for a new carbon border adjustment mechanism, which would essentially be a new tax on goods imported into the EU from countries with less stringent regulations on limiting greenhouse gases.

According to the commission, the mechanism will put a carbon price on imports of a targeted selection of products. It will ensure that European emission reductions contribute to a global emissions decline, instead of pushing carbon-intensive production outside Europe.

Zhang Zhiqiang, an associate researcher with the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, said the mechanism, despite its good intentions, overlooked developed nations' historical responsibilities for heat-trapping gases and the different development stages of various countries.

The international academic community has concluded that about 70 percent of global carbon emissions since the dawn of the industrial revolution have been made by developed countries, he said, adding that greenhouse gases could exist in the air for over 100 years and may linger for 10,000 years.

Zhang also stressed the correlation of countries' current emissions levels with their development stages.

The emission level of a country will gradually decline after it enters a period of post-industrialization, but developing economies such as China that are still industrializing are still making "survival" emissions, he said, comparing the situation to the appetites of people of different ages.

"When juvenile, people have a high level of activity and eat a lot. Once in old age, their level of activity will decrease as their metabolism slows down," he said.

Zhang said many developed countries also have transferred the production of high-carbon products to developing countries, making it even more unfair for the EU to introduce the carbon border adjustment mechanism.

If the consumption of high-carbon products made in developing nations was considered, many rich countries would record much higher emission levels, he said.

Zhang said he looks forward to seeing the EU stick to multilateralism in global climate governance and discuss the issue with other countries.

Cui Zhiguang, an expert with the China Center for Information Industry Development, said: "The carbon border adjustment mechanism is unilateral. But joint endeavor is needed to cope with climate change."

Essentially a tax levied on developing countries, the mechanism may result in an unfavorable situation for the global climate governance process, he said.

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