This issue of putting taxes on imports for reasons of climate change* has become a very hot topic. . . . The developing countries are very much against such a measure because they see it as protectionism. They see it as a way for the developed countries to evade their responsibilities to provide finance and technologies to developing countries but instead to shift the burden of adjustment to the developing countries. The developing countries are poor and therefore don’t have the money to get the best technologies that are climate-friendly. They are relying on the rich countries to provide funds and technologies so that they can shift to a sustainable development growth pattern. Blocking the products coming from developing countries on the grounds that they are more polluting would deal a very big blow to the poorer countries, including those that are exporting commodities, and will lead to a big conflict in the climate negotiations as well as in the WTO. So, the solution is not to punish the developing countries for their poverty and their weak technologies but instead to have a system of international cooperation in which the developed countries provide finance and technologies so that developing countries can upgrade their technologies and continue their economic development without adding onto the emissions of carbon dioxide. . . .
* Editor’s Note: Paul Krugman recently wrote in a feature story of the New York Times Magazine: “For those who think that taking action is essential, the right question is how to persuade China and other emerging nations to participate in emissions limits. . . . But what if the Chinese (or the Indians or the Brazilians, etc.) do not want to participate in such a system? Then you need sticks as well as carrots. In particular, you need carbon tariffs” (“Building a Green Economy,” 5 April 2010). See, also, “Sarkozy, Berlusconi Jointly Call for Carbon Tax on EU Borders” (Xinhua, 15 April 2010).
Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre. Video by Andreas Lehrner (for a WEED series of short videos “Voices on Trade Justice”). This video was released on YouTube on 2 December 2009. The text above is an edited partial transcript of the video.