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Border carbon adjustments and the potential for protectionism

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  • PETER HOLMES
  • TOM REILLY
  • JIM ROLLO

Abstract

Balancing a legitimate fear that carbon leakage could undermine the impact of any global climate change agreement is a countervailing fear that leakage could be the excuse for protectionism in the guise of 'border carbon adjustments'. This would be dangerous for the world trading system, risking disputes due to ambiguities in the details of World Trade Organization rules over what types of border measures are potentially and actually admissible. Even with good-quality data, there is considerable potential for judgemental discretion, and hence opportunistic manipulation, in estimating the carbon charges to levy on an imported product. This is true even given agreement on whether to use importer or exporter coefficients. A clear distinction needs to be made between environmental and competitiveness motives for border adjustments. The key argument is that the traditional symmetry, between origin (production)-based taxes and other charges (e.g. due to a cap-and-trade scheme) and those based on the destination (consumption) principle, breaks down in the case of carbon charges. The potential is explored for regional agreements to ensure origin as the basis for carbon levies, while recognizing the challenges this poses for the mutual recognition of emissions regimes in particular.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Holmes & Tom Reilly & Jim Rollo, 2011. "Border carbon adjustments and the potential for protectionism," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 883-900, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:tcpoxx:v:11:y:2011:i:2:p:883-900
    DOI: 10.3763/cpol.2009.0071
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Aaditya Mattoo & Arvind Subramanian & Dominique van der Mensbrugghe & Jianwu He, 2009. "Reconciling Climate Change and Trade Policy," Working Papers 189, Center for Global Development.
    2. Jean Pierre Ponssard & Neil Walker, 2008. "EU emissions trading and the cement sector: a spatial competition analysis," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(5), pages 467-493, September.
    3. Onno Kuik & Reyer Gerlagh, 2003. "Trade Liberalization and Carbon Leakage," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 97-120.
    4. Trevor Houser & Rob Bradley & Britt Childs, 2008. "Leveling the Carbon Playing Field: International Competition and US Climate Policy Design," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 4204.
    5. European Commission, 2010. "Innovative Financing at a Global Level," Taxation Papers 23, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Böhringer, Christoph & Rosendahl, Knut Einar & Briseid Storrøsten, Halvor, 2015. "Smart hedging against carbon leakage," Working Paper Series 14-2015, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, School of Economics and Business.
    2. repec:eee:pubeco:v:149:y:2017:i:c:p:35-46 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Alberto Gago & Xavier Labandeira & Xiral López Otero, 2014. "A Panorama on Energy Taxes and Green Tax Reforms," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 208(1), pages 145-190, March.
    4. Antimiani, Alessandro & Costantini, Valeria & Kuik, Onno & Paglialunga, Elena, 2016. "Mitigation of adverse effects on competitiveness and leakage of unilateral EU climate policy: An assessment of policy instruments," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 246-259.
    5. Sheldon, Ian & McCorriston, Steve, 2014. "Climate Policy and Border Measures: The Case of the US Aluminum Industry," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 169544, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    6. Christoph Böhringer & Knut Einar Rosendahl & Halvor Briseid Storrøsten, 2015. "Mitigating carbon leakage: Combining output-based rebating with a consumption tax," ZenTra Working Papers in Transnational Studies 54 / 2015, ZenTra - Center for Transnational Studies.
    7. Frédéric Branger, Philippe Quirion, Julien Chevallier, 2017. "Carbon Leakage and Competitiveness of Cement and Steel Industries Under the EU ETS: Much Ado About Nothing," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3).
    8. Fouré, Jean & Guimbard, Houssein & Monjon, Stéphanie, 2016. "Border carbon adjustment and trade retaliation: What would be the cost for the European Union?," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 349-362.
    9. Madison Condon & Ada Ignaciuk, 2013. "Border Carbon Adjustment and International Trade: A Literature Review," OECD Trade and Environment Working Papers 2013/6, OECD Publishing.
    10. Jean Fouré & Houssein Guimbard & Stéphanie Monjon, 2013. "Border Carbon Ajustment in Europe and Trade Retaliation: What would be the Cost for European Union?," Working Papers 2013-34, CEPII research center.
    11. repec:eee:appene:v:201:y:2017:i:c:p:188-199 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Sakai, Marco & Barrett, John, 2016. "Border carbon adjustments: Addressing emissions embodied in trade," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 102-110.

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    JEL classification:

    • F18 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Environment

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