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Green tariffs: unrealistic and unachievable

By Graham Young - posted Tuesday, 29 August 2023

So Chris Bowen, Australia's climate change and energy minister, wants a "green tariff," raising the price of imports that emit too much CO2 and pocketing the proceeds in government coffers?

Well great.

That means he must now admit that "renewable" energy is more expensive than "legacy" energy. Otherwise, why would he need to penalise imports from countries using mostly fossil fuels?


Unless it is really just a trade barrier, in which case it is going to fall foul of international trade rules.

To prove it is actually an environmental measure, he would need to turn it into a border CO2 tax that would relate to the amount of CO2 emitted in the production of each item. But that would be difficult.

While you might be able to measure the CO2 emissions for individual countries, how do you measure it for products?

Every product these days is made from components that are manufactured across the whole globe. A car might be assembled in China, but some of its components will be manufactured in peripheral countries, like even Australia.

Assessing the carbon emissions, and the carbon emissions compliance, of all the countries in the chain would appear to be nigh near impossible.

But if you can't, and don't, do that, then it's probable that your tariffs won't be legal.


And then, what does legality count for in the international context? If we apply green tariffs against China, for example, they will retaliate, even if the tariffs are legal.

They didn't need any genuine rationale to apply tariffs against Australian goods when spoke out against Chinese negligence in the case of COVID-19, they just applied them. They will do it again.

Not that we would have any basis for applying tariffs to them for non-compliance with Rio commitments-they didn't make any. Or at least they committed to lower emissions at some time in the future, so we can't hold them responsible in the present.

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This article was first published in The Epoch Times.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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