Tackling Carbon Emissions at the Border

Oct 9, 2023

EU launches strategic approach to climate change and international trade


In a bold move to combat the environmental impact of some imports, the European Union (EU) has announced the implementation of a pioneering carbon border tax. This initiative, known as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) is initially targeting only products such as iron, steel, cement, aluminum, fertilizer, hydrogen and electricity, which have been identified as significant contributors to global carbon emissions.

The tax aims to level the playing field for domestic producers who are adhering to stringent EU environmental standards by discouraging a phenomenon known as “carbon leakage” or the relocation of production outside the European Union’s borders to countries with lower environmental standards, undermining the bloc’s broader goals for global carbon reduction.

There have been mixed reactions to the adoption of CBAM. While some see it as a necessary tool for EU-based companies that are subject to carbon pricing, others view it as a potential trade barrier that could lead to disputes with some of Europe’s major trading partners. A recent article in Al Circle reported that the EU’s Economy Commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni responded to the latter concerns by pointing out that: “the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism is not about trade protection, it’s about protecting the EU’s climate ambition and seeking to raise the level of climate ambition worldwide.”

As part of the broader European Green Deal, CBAM will be introduced gradually. In the initial phase-in period only the reporting requirements will be in effect with the full mechanism becoming operational and financial consequences being imposed in 2026.

As Al Circle notes, the EU has emphasized that, “Climate change is a global problem that needs global solutions.” This landmark decision reflects the European Union’s commitment to curbing global carbon emissions and setting a precedent for other nations to consider similar measures.

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