France sees EU-US pushing for carbon tax under Biden

Joe Biden’s arrival at the White House in January will give the EU and the United States the opportunity to push for international carbon taxes and face opposition to the idea of ​​China, according to the French Minister of the Environment, Barbara Pompili.

Describing France’s ambitious plans for joint action to limit global warming now that Donald Trump is about to exit, Ms Pompili hailed Mr Biden’s pledge to join the Paris agreement and compared the difficulty of fight the climate crisis with solutions for the Covid-19 pandemic. “Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against the climate,” she told the Financial Times in an interview.

Mr Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron – who once urged Americans to ‘make our planet great again’ in an ironic allusion to Mr Trump’s election slogan – consider it crucial to persuade China to keep its climate promises to limit global warming.

Ms Pompili said of Mr Biden’s statements on carbon pricing and border adjustment mechanisms: “This is an area where we can work together, as we are pushing it at European level and in relations with countries like China, which make a number of commitments, but do not want to engage in this type of mechanism.

She said there should be “a level playing field” so that “the efforts we ask our companies to reduce their carbon emissions and change their practices are not all thwarted by campaigns from countries like China that would render our efforts useless ”.

A coordinated push on carbon pricing and carbon taxes – which involve setting emission limits by country or industry and trading in allowances or taxing the excess – would mark a sea change in the relationship. US-EU facing climate change.

US President-elect Joe Biden said he would “prevent China from subsidizing coal exports and outsourcing carbon pollution” © Johannes Eisele / AFP via Getty

In January, the Trump administration threatened the EU with possible sanctions against carbon tax plans as part of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s “new green deal” program.

France is pushing for the EU to adopt a carbon border tax so that European industries are not compromised by competitors exporting cheaper products based on low-cost, high-carbon inputs, such as energy, which are not strictly regulated in their own markets. Ms Pompili said it would be “very ambitious” to expect a Europe deal next year, but that France would make it a priority when taking the EU presidency in the first half of 2022.

France’s push to impose a carbon tax has a striking echo in Mr Biden’s own climate plan. The president-elect said he would “prevent China from subsidizing coal exports and outsourcing carbon pollution” and “will impose adjustment fees or carbon quotas on carbon-intensive products from from countries that do not respect their climate and environmental obligations ”.

China pledged in September to become “carbon neutral” by 2060, while Biden wants the United States to achieve it by 2050. Research group Climate Action Tracker calculated in a report this month that these and other promises would help limit global warming to 2.1 ° C by 2100, above the 1.5 ° C target of the Paris Agreement, but a better result than previously feared.

However, improvement will depend on countries implementing sometimes drastic policy changes to keep their promises. China continues to rely on highly polluting fossil fuels to boost its industrial recovery after the coronavirus pandemic, and this year the number of new coal-fired power plants proposed in the country has grown at the fastest rate in five years.

Ms Pompili, noting China’s ‘paradoxical’ combination of a carbon-dependent economy and large investments in renewable energy, hopes Mr Biden’s commitment to tackle climate change can spread through reluctant countries to improve their climate commitments before the next UN climate summit. in Glasgow next year.

Global fossil carbon dioxide emissions

After joining the Paris agreement, adopted five years ago, the United States is preparing to announce a new climate target for 2030 and Ms. Pompili hopes this will force other countries dragging their heels to do the same. .

“Today, only 15 countries have announced their contribution, which represents 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “We are therefore far from the solution and we feel that there has been a little fatigue.”

France and the EU plan to announce next week an increase in their emission reduction target from 40% by 2030 to 55%.

The renewed US support for the international fight against climate change comes as Mr. Macron hones his green credentials at home with a number of ambitious environmental policies.

The French president has already pledged to increase the use of renewable energies and has committed nearly a third of the country’s 100 billion euro Covid-19 recovery plan to green investments, including the development of a hydrogen industry.

Mr. Macron set up a citizens’ convention to propose new green policies, in part to calm tensions following the yellow vests protests that started in 2018 over a tax on green fuels.

France is also set to become the first country to make “ecocide” a crime, punishable by a fine of up to 4.5 million euros and 10 years in prison. He has appointed an environmental lawyer to propose measures against corporate “greenwashing”, the practice of pretending to be green when you are not. Ms Pompili also said that France was strengthening its oversight of environmental laws and that French courts of appeal would have specialized judges with environmental expertise.

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