China denounces carbon tariff idea ahead of Copenhagen

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s official news agency has denounced proposals for “carbon tariffs” on goods from big greenhouse gas emitting countries, saying on Friday that the idea could trigger trade battles with poor countries.

Carbon tariffs would involve placing special duties on goods made in nations found not doing enough to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions trapping rising levels of solar heat in the atmosphere, generating global warming.

Such tariffs, more broadly called “border adjustment measures,” are a distant prospect, but U.S. lawmakers and some European leaders have said that they should be an option if countries shirk on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and an exporting giant, has denounced the idea before, and its Xinhua news agency pressed that opposition in a commentary issued before key climate change negotiations open in Copenhagen on Monday.

“The carbon tariffs proposed by some developed countries are quite likely to trigger a trade war and spark boycotts from developing countries,” said the Xinhua commentary, adding that rich nations had failed to act on their own vows to cut emissions and give more help to poor countries to fight global warming.

“Some developed countries have made a wrong decision. They are practicing trade protectionism under a disguised pretext,” said Pan Jiahua, a climate policy expert who has advised the Chinese government, according to the commentary.

The Copenhagen meeting is intended to forge the framework of a new international agreement on fighting climate change.

The Xinhua commentary underscored China’s fears that the United States, European Union and other rich economies could slow the flow of goods from it and other developing countries in the name of environmental protection.

Powerful U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said last month that Washington must include a tariff or some other “border measure” to protect U.S. manufacturers from unfair competition as part of legislation to address climate change.

The Xinhua commentary said such measures would violate World Trade Organization rules. Experts have said some border adjustment measures would be permissible under WTO rules.

“The true motive of developed countries’ carbon tariffs proposal is to protect domestic industries, which have suffered during the global financial crisis,” said Xinhua.

Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by David Fox