Monday

23rd May 2022

Magazine

African economies risk suffocation by 'shock' carbon tax

  • The French EU presidency called the carbon border tax a 'victory for European climate policy', back in March (Photo: Zach Stern)
Listen to article

The climate is surely one area where the European Union and African Union should be in step with one another. Curbing global warming and agreeing how to produce clean power would help keep more of the world habitable and prosperous.

Worryingly, however, policy differences between Europe and Africa have been widening.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Kenya, a major agricultural producer, already generates the majority of its energy needs from renewables, mostly hydropower (Photo: European Commission)

Africans increasingly see Europeans as indifferent to their need to develop their economies and shake off the poverty that leads many Africans to embark on difficult migration journeys, both within Africa and to Europe.

The EU agreement on the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) reached on 15 March has been described a "victory for European climate policy" by Bruno Le Maire, French finance minister, representing the French EU presidency.

The carbon tax will give the EU a tool to speed up the decarbonisation of European industry, while protecting it from countries with less ambitious climate goals and "also incentivise other countries to become more sustainable and emit less," said Le Maire.

But Faten Aggad is sceptical. The senior advisor at the African Climate Foundation, an organisation that channels philanthropy into efforts to protect the climate, she says that under the CBAM, African exporters that do not meet EU-set standards would have to pay extra for their goods to reach the European market.

What some Africans now are bracing for is a carbon "shock," where EU tariffs would end up "suffocating some African economies," she warns. The ability of African countries like Egypt, Nigeria and Algeria to continue their industrialisation could be severely impacted.

Aggad is also adamant that Africans see hypocrisy and double standards in Europeans' repeated refusal to make a rapid break with coal, oil and natural gas while charging ahead with grand plans to push other parts of the world like Africa towards carbon-reduction.

Guinea pig?

"There is a question as to whether Europe is actually using Africa as a guinea pig, even while its own power consumption patterns, and in general, its consumption pattern aren't seriously put into question," says Aggad.

She cites the example of The Netherlands, which generates around 12-percent of its energy from clean energy despite its capabilities of generating far more than that from wind resources. Kenya, which is also a major agricultural producer, already generates the majority of its energy needs from renewables, mostly hydropower.

Europe should do more to craft policies that support African countries that already have renewables, so that they can build more of them, as well as allow other African countries to decarbonise in ways that consider their levels of indebtedness and high costs of borrowing that they face — not to mention their historical circumstances, she says.

But Europe may already be reneging on a grand bargain reached among wealthier, industrialised countries and poorer, developing countries under the Paris Agreement on climate change seven years ago. The idea in Paris, says Aggad, was to ensure that requirements on countries to address the climate should be carefully calibrated, so as not to deepen inequality among countries internationally.

"Now what we see, at least that's the perception, is an attempt by Europe to backtrack on this principle by putting heavy requirements on African countries to push them to move to a European model of decarbonisation," said Aggad. "This is actually growing into a major issue between the two continents."

This article first appeared in EUobserver's magazine, War, Peace and the Green Economy, which you can now read in full online.

Author bio

James Kanter is the creator and producer of the award-winning EU Scream podcast, and journalist formerly with the New York Times and International Herald Tribune.

Activists slam tweak to EU carbon allowance scheme

Ahead of EU environment ministers' meeting, environmental groups sent a joint letter urging ministers to "uphold the 'polluter-pays' principle, as enshrined in EU law when reforming the Emissions Trading System."

EU carbon border tax to target imports from 2026

The European Commission wants to impose an import levy on certain goods produced in third countries with lower environmental standards, from 2026. From 2023 to 2025, importers will only have to report emissions embedded in their goods.

MEPs agree carbon border tax - heavy industries protected

Green groups warned that if heavy industry continues to receive free allowances even after a carbon border levy is in place, this would essentially be a double subsidy for those sectors. "The European Commission must correct this," the WWF warned.

Interview: 'Carbon tax' MEP with one eye on Mozambique

Dutch MEP Mohammed Chahim is rapporteur forthe proposed carbon tax on imported goods which is planned to come into force in 2026. It is one of the biggest and most complex legislative proposals Europe has ever drawn up.

MEPs raise ambition on EU carbon market reform

MEPs on the environment committee agreed on reform of the European carbon market — including expanding it to buildings and transport. They also want to extend the scope of the carbon border tax, and phase out free permits by 2030.

War, Peace and the Green Economy

This magazine is about the world's collective and potentially transformational journey towards a green economy. It is also about taking the reader on what we hope is a fascinating "green voyage" across Europe, Africa and China.

News in Brief

  1. Germany would back Russia oil embargo without Hungary
  2. UK to send 'hundreds' of migrants to Rwanda each year
  3. Norwegian knife attacks were domestic dispute
  4. Sweden hits back at Turkey's 'disinformation' in Nato bid
  5. Germany's Schröder gives up one of two Russia jobs
  6. G7 countries pledge €18bn in financial aid for Ukraine
  7. Italian unions strike in protest over military aid for Ukraine
  8. Russia cuts gas supply to Finland

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. Missing guns amid rising far-right hate in EU
  2. MEPs boycott trip after Israeli snub
  3. What Europe still needs to do to save its bees
  4. Remembering Falcone: How Italy almost became a narco-state
  5. Economic worries and Hungary on the spot Next WEEK
  6. MEPs urge sanctioning the likes of ex-chancellor Schröder
  7. MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut
  8. Catalan leader slams Pegasus use: 'Perhaps I'm still spied on'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us