Britain lashes out at EU over carbon tariffs that amount to 'trade barriers'

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The Independent Online

Britain attacked EU proposals to impose carbon tariffs on the US, China and other major importers as "trade barriers" yesterday.

The Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks, speaking to the BBC's Today programme yesterday, said that European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's suggestion that importers may be required to buy EU carbon allowances looked like "trade barriers", and added: "There is always the danger that the protectionists in Europe – and they do exit – could use this as a kind of secret weapon to bring about protectionism".

Mr Wicks' comments came after Mr Barroso, told a business conference in London, said that "there would be no point in pushing EU companies to cut emissions if the only result is that production and pollution shifts to countries with no carbon disciplines at all."

Mr Barroso was speaking ahead of new Commission climate change proposals due to be published today. Mr Wicks' said that the UK favoured a "more sensitive approach" than that proposed by Mr Barroso.

"We put our faith in international agreements," he said: "We need more countries to... initiate schemes like emissions trading schemes. That would be our approach."

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform reiterated Mr Wicks' points and said that imposing tariffs on importers would be "very complex" and "would impose new barriers to trade on developing countries at a time when we are trying to reduce them".

"We are seeking an ambitious international climate agreement for post-2012. The issue of carbon requirement on importers only arises if we were not be successful in securing such an international agreement," it said.

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