Australia has rejected a proposed carbon tax from the EU which would push to slash emissions by 55 per cent by 2030.
The EU has discussed a carbon border tax on energy intensive products imported from countries across the globe including Australia. It is yet to be approved by the European parliament.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan told ABC Radio National he is investigating whether the proposed tax contravenes international trading rules.
“The last thing the world now needs is extra protectionist policies being put in place,” the minister told the ABC.
Mr Tehan said he was concerned about products within the EU being treated differently to those outside of it. He believes the tax will “undermine” international cooperation and is a “sub-optimal way of reducing emissions”.
“We worry that it’s focused more about raising revenue than really reducing emissions themselves,” he said.
Australia had a carbon tax which was scrapped in 2014.
What the EU's proposed carbon tax will target
The EU made the announcement on Wednesday (local time). The proposal will mean raising the cost of emitting carbon for heating, transport and manufacturing, taxing high-carbon aviation fuel and shipping fuel that have not been taxed before.
It means charging importers at the border for the carbon emitted in making products such as cement, steel and aluminium abroad. It will consign the internal combustion engine to history.
EU climate policy chief Frans Timmermans admitted the proposal “is hard”.
"But it's also an obligation, because if we renounce our obligation to help humanity, live within planetary boundaries, we would fail, not just ourselves, but we would fail our children and our grandchildren,” he said.
Malcolm Turnbull critical of Australia's carbon tax stance
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia’s stance against carbon tariffs is “naive”.
Selling a tariff to voters at home could offer governments an easy political victory through the promise of protecting local jobs and businesses, the former PM said.
"If you can impose a tariff which does all those things but at the same time say you are saving the planet, well that sounds much more appealing," he told the ABC in June.
"Politically, it is so easy to sell domestically. You'd have to be very naive not to recognise it's coming up in the lift."
Sir David King, the keynote speaker at the National Climate Emergency Summit 2021 in Melbourne in February, said Australia is “one of the worst” when it comes to carbon emissions compared to other countries.
"It is, I think, really sad that Australia, this very advanced country which is also suffering in many, many ways from climate change already... it is very strange to me that Australia isn't amongst the leading countries for action,” he said.
He also refuted the notion that carbon tariffs were a form of protectionism, labelling it "absurd".
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