Fighting to limit global warming is good. Making sure you don’t suffer from unfair competition is even better. This is the purpose of the carbon border adjustment mechanism – commonly known as a “carbon tax” – on which the European Parliament is due to vote on Wednesday 8 June.
The unprecedented mechanism aims to ensure that companies exporting to the European market experience the same climatic constraints as those imposed on companies present on European soil.
A “historic” vote
The construction site began in July 2021 with the presentation of the project by the European Commission. On the Parliament side, the great architect of this tool is called Mohammed Chahim. He is Dutch, a socialist, born in 1985, and for months he has been working behind the scenes, within the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (Envi), to adjust the parameters of the future mechanism – so that these are acceptable to a majority of MEPs. Without this, it is impossible to hope for an agreement in plenary. Tuesday, June 7, ahead of the long-awaited vote, he did not hide it: his ” task “ – building compromises – did not “not been easy”. But he is sure: “This week, Parliament can make history. »
“I have heard about this project since I was 15 and I am proud to participate in its implementation”, for his part smiled Stéphane Séjourné, president of the Renew Europe (RE) group. And for good reason, “the issue of border adjustment, which has been present in the European debate for more than ten years, has come back with force in a context where the EU has decided to move towards carbon neutrality by 2050, and where many many industrial sectors are concerned about the repercussions of this objective on their competitiveness”, can we read in a note from the Jacques-Delors Institute.
Avoid climate dumping
For Pascal Canfin, chairman of the Envi commission, the introduction of the carbon tax is ” logic “ because Europe is also changing “the rules of the carbon market so that European industrialists pay the right price for carbon and that we are the area in the world where this price is by far the highest”. Clearly, we must ensure that products entering the European market also pay the same price as Europeans, to avoid any form of climate dumping.
The French Presidency of the Council of the EU, at the helm until the end of June, is holding its breath: since January, it has not ceased to recall the importance of this mechanism and has made it one of its horses of battle. So, when the 27 States had been able to reach a unified position on this text in March, the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire had mentioned a great “victory for climate policy”.
A text dear to Emmanuel Macron
The final agreement between Parliament and the Council of the EU will probably not take place under the tricolor presidency, but within the French representation of the EU in Brussels, everyone hopes that the other delegations will remember the efforts made by France. to advance this text dear to President Emmanuel Macron. However, the trialogue stage – during which the European institutions must tune their violins – does not promise to be the easiest: key questions remain open, in particular that of the date of entry into operation of the new mechanism. Worse, States and MEPs do not agree on the sectors that should be targeted.
The question of free quotas
The EU executive has proposed applying the border adjustment mechanism to the cement, fertilizer, iron and steel, aluminum and electricity sectors. The EU Council is on the same line. Parliament could demand that the mechanism also apply to chemicals, plastics, hydrogen and ammonia. Finally, the issue of free quotas raises fears of very complicated talks. For Mohammed Chahim, these exemptions to the emissions trading system “prevent proper application of the polluter pays principle”. In the hemicycle, not everyone is of the same opinion. The daytime vote in plenary will decide.