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Border Carbon Adjustments and the Potential for Protectionism

  • Peter Holmes

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Sussex)

  • Tom Reilly
  • Jim Rollo

    ()

    (Politics and Contemporary European Studies, University of Sussex)

Balancing legitimate fears that carbon leakage could undermine the impact of any global climate change agreement are countervailing fears that leakage will be the excuse for protectionism in the guise of “Border Carbon Adjustments”. This would have dangers for the world trading system, risking disputes due to ambiguities in the details of WTO 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 even with 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 based taxes (production) and other charges and those based on the destination (consumption) principle breaks down in the case of carbon charges. This paper explores the potential for regional agreements to ensure origin as the basis for carbon levies in the aftermath of the Copenhagen Accord, while recognising the challenges that this poses for the mutual recognition of emissions regimes in particular.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Sussex in its series Working Paper Series with number 0610.

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Date of creation: Aug 2010
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Handle: RePEc:sus:susewp:0610
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  1. Mattoo, Aaditya & Subramanian, Arvind & van der Mensbrugghe, Dominique & He, Jianwu, 2009. "Reconciling climate change and trade policy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5123, The World Bank.
  2. European Commission, 2010. "Innovative Financing at a Global Level," Taxation Papers 23, Directorate General Taxation and Customs Union, European Commission.
  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.
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