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Carbon has no place in global trade rules

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Crunch time for an international agreement to tackle global warming is only weeks away. In December, the world will meet in Copenhagen to negotiate a new agreement on cutting global emissions of greenhouse gases, with prospects for a meeting of minds still far from certain. Developed countries fears that the competitiveness of their industries will be undermined by weak emission-reduction pledges from developing countries are clouding hopes for progress. These fears have led to calls in some advanced countries, such as France and the US, for taxes on imports from countries that do not adopt stringent greenhouse gas targets.

Calls for border taxes on imports divert attention from the fundamental issue: the need for everyone to take action on greenhouse gas emissions. Developed countries acknowledge that they have a responsibility to lead action to combat climate change. But their calls for import tariffs are antagonising developing countries anxious to provide improved living conditions for their citizens.

Governments that have taken or are contemplating ambitious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are facing intense opposition at home based on two major concerns. Developed economies are major producers of emission-intensive products, and businesses in these countries fear a loss of competitiveness if their domestic industries face tougher restrictions on carbon emissions than those in emerging economies. At the same time, politicians worry that efforts to reduce emissions may be undermined by increased emissions elsewhere

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