Some African countries consider the EU’s planned carbon border levy to be “protectionist”. That was the upshot of a conference organised by the French government on Tuesday (23 March), which examined the challenges posed by the EU’s upcoming mechanism. EURACTIV France reports.
According to Youba Sokona, vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a carbon border adjustment mechanism would harm “countries with less financial and human capacity,” particularly those with low CO2 emissions.
Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, the director general for climate action, Mauro Petricione, acknowledged that “what is expected of an African country in terms of climate policy is not the same as that of a European country.”
“This will give rise to heated debates,” he admitted.
Timothy Gore of the Institute for European Environmental Policy shared Sokona’s concerns, noting that “it will all depend on the scope of the measures” and the products that will be included.
“These countries are very dependent on aluminium exports, they will be very exposed. The ambiguity of the European discourse is to define a small category of high-intensity products. But we don’t know who will be affected,” he added.
Non-European producers will not face discrimination
While Sokona agreed on “the way forward to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and to move towards non-carbon economies, as described in the latest IPCC report”, he recalled that 80% of Africa’s electricity “comes from fossil fuels”.
Petricione labelled this figure as “catastrophic,” warning that “energy in Africa is one of the biggest problems we will face in the future”.
But he also sought to reassure developing countries, saying they “are lucky in the sense that we will start with some sectors” and apply the carbon border levy only selectively. Whether they will be hit by the EU carbon border charge will also depend on the political measures adopted at national level “and what they want to do to fight global warming,” Petricione added.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who also participated in the online discussion, insisted that the EU’s carbon border levy “does not amount to protectionism,” saying its rules will not “discriminate” against non-European producers.
However, these remarks did not satisfy Sokona. “If we look at the conclusions of the latest studies on Africa, we can see that by 2030, less than 10% of energy will be renewable,” he warned.
“We will certainly attract high-carbon production and this could reopen the debate on carbon leakage. We need to look at this from a more global perspective,” he added.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox and Frédéric Simon]