Skip to content
March 23, 2009 / Mridul

China Opposes US Plans to Levy Carbon Tax on Imported Goods


With fears of being pressurized to agree to mandatory emissions cuts under the new climate treaty, China has up the ante and is looking to hit back at the developed countries by holding them accountable for a size-able portion of its carbon emissions. According to a recent study, 15 to 25 percent of China’s carbon emissions originate from manufacturing of goods exported to developed countries.

The Director of China’s Climate Change department, Gao Li,  has said that since the western countries are these final users of the carbon intensive products they should share the responsibility for the same with the Chinese government. Mr. Li also said that sharing equal responsibility was essential to reach any fair agreement over reducing the carbon emissions.

These statements came almost a week after a carbon tax bill was introduced in the US Congresswhich called for levying an ‘carbon equivalency fee’ on imported products, in addition to the nationwide carbon tax in order to neutralize the losses incurred by domestic manufacturers. The bill, if passed, would also allow the US government to withhold revenue generated from the equivalence fee till the time the producer nation agrees to a domestic carbon tax of its own. 

According to the Kyoto Protocol, which both United States and China are not a part of, the country where the carbon emissions have been originated is responsible for them. However, China has long argued that its manufacturing sector is merely fulfilling the demands of the western countries. Whereas the western countries argue that Chinese companies still use old and less efficient productions technologies which are responsible for making China the largest polluter in the world.

Increasing number of environmentalists and campaigners are siding with China on this issue. Import and export of goods is a major source of carbon emissions but the directions given in the Kyoto agreement punishes the producers while giving free hand to the consumers. Many experts have questioned the way the accounting of carbon emissions is carried out. Apart from import and export, emissions from ships and aircrafts are major contentious issues. Efforts to include ship and aircraft emissions in any international treaty have found no success so far.

China, on its part, continues to question the legitimacy of the demands for it to agree to mandatory emission reductions saying that the developed nations need to do much more. Speaking at last year’s Climate Change  conference in Bali, Su Wei, a member of China’s delegation, said

I just wonder whether it’s fair to ask developing countries like China to take on binding targets or mandatory targets. I think there is much room for the United States to think whether it’s possible to change (its) lifestyle and consumption patterns in order to contribute to the protection of the global climate.

Talks for the next climate treaty are scheduled to be held at Copenhagen in December this year and with the United States, under the leadership of President Obama, taking bold new measures to reduce carbon emissions, the pressure is now on the developing countries to respond in kind. The EU wants the advanced developing nations to agree to some kind of mandatory emission targets while India & China want the developed countries to do more as they have a ‘historical responsibility’.

It is clear that the two camps would be part of some heated arguments over who should do what and by how much when delegates from over 200 countries meet in Copenhagen this December. Hopefully, a mutual agreement could be reached wherein everybody is satisfied and more importantly all carbon emissions are correctly accounted for in order to achieve the agreed emission reduction goals.

Bookmark and Share

Image: freefotouk (Creative Commons)

This article was first posted on

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: