April 7, 2009 / 6:18 PM / 11 years ago

India urges rich not to use "green" protectionism

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - India urged rich nations against applying a carbon tariff on steel and other imports, on the sidelines of UN climate talks in Bonn on Tuesday.

A worker handles steel wire rod coils at a steel market in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, March 22, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

Both U.S. and European Union policymakers have considered penalising imports of products such as steel and cement, whose manufacture generates a lot of carbon emissions, from countries with softer climate policies.

“That is simply not acceptable, that is protectionism,” said Shyam Saran, special climate envoy to the Indian Prime Minster Manmohan Singh.

“We should be very careful that we don’t start going in that direction. We welcome any kind of arrangement ... where there can be a sharing of experience or best practices for any of these energy-intensive sectors.”

Developed countries want to protect domestic industry and stop companies moving off-shore as a result of carbon limits, for example under cap and trade schemes already functioning in Europe and planned in the United States.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said last month that Washington’s plans to put a price on domestic greenhouse gas emissions included examination of the option of tariffs on imports from countries that did not penalise carbon emissions.


Some EU leaders, and especially French President Nicolas Sarkozy, have supported a tariff on imports up to the value of carbon permits that importers would have to buy under the EU emissions trading scheme, as if they were based in Europe.

“We have some of the most efficient (industries) anywhere in the world, whether cement ... steel, but we also have some at very low levels of efficiency,” said Saran.

“We are trying to make sure we are able to raise levels of efficiency across the board for all of these energy-intensive industries.”

Some 175 nations are meeting this week in Bonn in one of a series of U.N.-led meetings meant to forge a deal in Copenhagen in December to replace or extend the Kyoto Protocol.

The talks are split on the level of action which industrialised countries take to curb their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

Developing countries say that the developed world has earned its wealth from two centuries of industrialisation, spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the process. They want the North to act first and help pay for carbon cuts in the South.

Saran reiterated India’s position that there was “no comparison” between the level of Indian and U.S. emissions, and that the onus for action was on developed nations.

“The progress so far has been disappointing,” he said of the Bonn talks. “We still have no clear indication about the emission reduction targets with regard to developed countries. There’s also still no guarantee over the scale of financial resources that would be available to developing countries (to fight climate change).”

Reporting by Gerard Wynn, Editing by Jon Boyle

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