Unilaterally imposing green tariffs will alienate trade partners who may be crucial to Obama’s environmental ambitions at Copenhagen. In a few days he must attempt to convince the G20 countries in Pittsburgh that his climate policies will not stall economic recovery.
Many European politicians share this vision. Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, whose country holds the EU presidency, recently said: “If the Senate would pass it, there would be no reason for China not to sign up” to emissions reductions.
Back in the real world, Chinese and Indian officials have repeatedly condemned the idea of “carbon tariffs.”
Stern admitted: “Developing countries tend to see a problem not of their own making that they are being asked to fix in ways which, they fear, could stifle their ability to lift their standards of living.”
Obama may have a lot of explaining to do when he visits China in November, as if his recent decision to impose tariffs on Chinese tires had not stirred up enough animosity.
Trade is mutually beneficial, promoting competition, innovation and economic development — and providing more money for environmental protection. Carbon tariffs like Waxman-Markey’s or Sarkozy’s will do little to the climate and do plenty of damage to economies everywhere.
Sallie James is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Trade Policy Studies in Washington.