Obama: no sanctions on those who don't support CO2 cuts

| 1st July 2009
Customs house
Barack Obama has said that he has no plans to introduce import tariffs on goods from nations not signed up to a post-Kyoto climate agreement
Eager to placate disgruntled Senators and world leaders alike, Barack Obama has said he has no plans to levy charges on goods from countries that have not signed a post-Kyoto climate change agreement

US President Barack Obama has surprised policy-makers by saying that the US will not impose trade sanctions - such as import tariffs - on countries that do not sign up to binding greenhouse gas reduction targets as part of a global treaty on climate change.

According to the New York Times, Obama told White House reporters that while the economic recession continues, 'we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there'.

An import tariff, which would help to compensate for the cheaper cost of producing energy-intensive products in countries where carbon taxes or trading systems do not exist, could be seen as running counter to World Trade Organisation rules on free global trade.

Obama's position comes after the country's first ever bill to limit emissions of greenhouse gases scraped through a House of Representatives vote by a 219-212 margin. Obama's position on trade tariffs - and the unambitious targets set in the bill - will be seen as an olive branch to senators who are opposed to tackling climate change for fear of its impact on the US economy.

Despite the President's retreat from the idea of import tariffs, the idea has been widely mooted elsewhere. In December 2008, Lord Adair Turner, head of the influential UK Government Climate Change Committee, told an audience assembled by the NGO Green Alliance that 'border carbon price adjustments' might be necessary to help compensate for those countries that had not signed up to a global climate change agreement.

The issue of import tariffs is often side-stepped by simply offering energy-intensive domestic industries - such as steel or aluminium - free carbon pollution permits, effectively making their products competitive with those from countries without greenhouse gas limits.

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