Climate Change Research ›› 2020, Vol. 16 ›› Issue (2): 243-250.doi: 10.12006/j.issn.1673-1719.2019.280

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Invisible carbon tariff: concept and international governance

WANG Mou   

  1. Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies/Research Center for Sustainable Development, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing 100732, China
  • Received:2019-11-25 Revised:2019-12-19 Online:2020-03-30 Published:2020-04-01


Carbon tariff is a trade issue of great concern to all countries. As it involves the economic and trade interests of all countries, the divergency between the North and South countries in this issue is great. Any policies or measures related to carbon tariff will arouse the strong opposition from developing countries. Therefore, some developed countries try to implement carbon tariff in a hidden manner, like increasing the technical requirements of manufacturing standards and carbon emission labels, in the international trade. In this paper, these hidden policies and measures that can achieve the effect of implementing carbon tariff are summarized as invisible carbon tariff. Specifically, invisible carbon tariff refers to policies and measures that play a role of tariff barriers as carbon tariff and restrict the export products and services of developing countries, although no carbon tariff is imposed at the border. The typical forms of invisible carbon tariff include production standards, carbon emission labels and other measures. These measures themselves are neutral policies and do not constitute invisible carbon tariffs. However, if they are combined with the purpose of transferring the cost of mitigating climate change to and limiting the industrial development of developing countries, they will no longer be neutral measures, but real trade barriers. The governance of invisible carbon tariff should be a part of the international climate governance process, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change should be the main international platform for invisible carbon tariff governance. Whether it’s within the Convention or not, the international governance of invisible carbon tariff should follow the relevant principles of the Convention, especially the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities for developed and developing countries, establish a fair and practical international cooperation mechanism, and give full play to the positive environmental effects of measures such as production standards and carbon labels. In the meanwhile, it should restrict the improper measures, truly establish an international cooperation model of mutual political trust and complementarity, and achieve the synergy between climate governance and economic development.

Key words: Invisible carbon tariff, Carbon emission label, International standard, International governance

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