By Matthew Green
MADRID (Reuters) – The European Union will not hesitate to impose measures to protect its industries from competitors who do not respect the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb global warming, EU climate commissioner Frans Timmermans said on Monday.
In response to a question on the EU’s position regarding a possible “carbon tax” on imports from high-emitting competitors, Timmermans said he hoped there would be no need to take such a step as the world moves to implement the Paris accord.
“I hope then there will be no need for such a measure, but if it is necessary, we will not hesitate to take it,” Timmermans told a news conference at a U.N. climate summit in Madrid.
In October, Timmermans said research would begin on the new tax, aimed at protecting European companies from unfair competition by raising the cost of products from countries taking inadequate action against climate change.
China, a major exporter of goods to the EU, has signalled its opposition to such a tax, which would likely increase the price of its products in Europe.
The issue has emerged as a source of friction between China and the EU at a moment when their cooperation is seen as vital to implementing the Paris accord, which aims to avert catastrophic global temperature increases.
Last week, He Jiankun, a professor at Tsinghua University who is travelling with China’s official delegation to the U.N. talks in Madrid, said a carbon tax would run counter to the principles of the Paris deal.
Nevertheless, Timmermans said that Europe would not allow its industries to be put “in a much weaker position vis-à-vis others” if the bloc moved to curb greenhouse gas emissions faster than its peers.
“If you take the same or comparable measures, there will be no need to correct anything at the border,” Timmermans said, referring to emissions cuts under the Paris deal.
“If you don’t, then of course, at some point, we will have to protect our industry that does take the measures.”
While a fast-growing youth-led climate activist movement is pressuring leaders to act, U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to begin withdrawing from the 2015 accord has cast a shadow over the latest round of negotiations.
(Reporting by Matthew Green, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Nick Macfie)