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Public's views sought on move to shut carbon emissions loophole

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Irish farmers have been among the most vocal in highlighting the problem of carbon leakage. Stock Image

Irish farmers have been among the most vocal in highlighting the problem of carbon leakage. Stock Image

Irish farmers have been among the most vocal in highlighting the problem of carbon leakage. Stock Image

The European Commission is moving to introduce a cross-border carbon tax and wants to hear the views of the Irish public.

The tax, or 'carbon border adjustment mechanism', would close a loophole that could see cheap imports from countries with lax climate policies replace European goods made more expensive by stricter emissions controls.

As well as threatening the viability of European producers, such 'carbon leakage' would do little to reduce overall global carbon emissions.

Irish farmers have been among the most vocal in highlighting the problem of carbon leakage, with fears restrictions on the size of the national herd will simply lead to greater volumes of more carbon-intensive imports.

Sadhbh O'Neill, climate law lecturer at DCU, said it was about time the issue was addressed. "Economists have been saying this for more than 25 years, that we need carbon pricing at a global level. The EU needs to take leadership on this," she said.

Finding a mechanism to level the playing field will be tricky given Europe's existing trade agreements with the rest of the world, but a 12-week public consultation is being carried out to gather views.

Currently, industries most affected by carbon leakage are compensated through carbon emission allowances under the emissions trading system (ETS). The consultation document said options to be considered include a straight border tax, extending the ETS to imports to encourage low-emission production abroad, and quantifying the carbon content of products.

"As long as many international partners do not share the same climate ambition as the EU, there is a risk of carbon leakage," it said.

"If this risk materialises, there will be no reduction in global emissions, and this will frustrate the efforts of the EU and its industries to meet the global climate objectives of the Paris Agreement."

The consultation exercise is one of two launched this week.

The second focuses on drawing up a 'European Climate Pact' that would define and link the roles of all sectors of European society in acting on climate change.

It is intended to be both a statement of solidarity on climate change and a trigger for commission support for practical initiatives at regional, local and community level.

Ideas can be submitted until May 27 and the pact is to be published in time for the next major UN climate conference, COP26, taking place in Glasgow in November.

Irish Independent