Cabinet clash over push for ‘carbon border tax’ on imports from polluting countries as ministers deny idea is being considered after Environment Secretary George Eustice says it will be ‘important’ in the future

  • Mr Eustice yesterday claimed that the ‘important’ idea was under discussion 
  • Treasury and Department for Business said no plans currently being examined
  • Ministers said to be concerned that such a plan would be a form of protectionism

Ministers today slapped down Environment Secretary George Eustice after he said that the Government was considering ‘carbon border taxes’ on imports from countries with poor environmental records.

Mr Eustice yesterday claimed that the ‘important’ idea was under discussion as he ruled out an ‘arbitrary’ meat tax on foreign food.

However, officials at the Treasury and the Department for Business said no such plans were currently being examined.

Ministers are also concerned that such a plan would be a form of protectionism that could increase the cost of food imports, the Times reported. 

Mr Eustice yesterday claimed that the ‘important’ idea was under discussion as he ruled out an ‘arbitrary’ meat tax on foreign food.

But ministers are concerned that such a plan would be a form of protectionism that could increase the cost of food imports, the Times reported

In theory the carbon tax could heap costs on products from states considered to be dodging their responsibilities to act.  

The comments came as Boris Johnson urged negotiators at Cop 26 in Glasgow to ‘drive for the line’ to get deals on protecting the globe.

Any move to a border tax on imports would take several years and Mr Eustice said it would ideally happen on an international basis.

‘In an ideal world, it will be done multilaterally, with the whole world coming together to agree this,’ he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show from Glasgow.

‘But it is going to be important. If you’re going to have carbon taxes at some point in the future, and emissions trading, you can only really make sense of that with a carbon border tax.’

The purpose of the tax would be to prevent pollution effectively being exported by bringing in products from countries without taking into account the emissions produced there.

‘We would be saying, as countries, that we’re taking the action necessary to deal with this global challenge, but we’re not going to allow those producers in this country to be undercut by those who aren’t doing their share, and we’re not going to export pollution.

‘So if you don’t want to export pollution, then you do at some point have to consider something like a carbon border tax.’

However, Mr Eustice was clear that a ‘meat tax’ is not on the horizon. 

‘We’re not going to have an arbitrary meat tax or meat levy,’ he said.

‘That’s never been on the cards. I’ve never supported it.’ 

At the weekend Mr Johnson said: ‘There is one week left for COP26 to deliver for the world, and we must all pull together and drive for the line.’

Mr Johnson said nations had brought ‘ambition and action to help limit rising temperatures’, hailing agreements on deforestation and methane emissions.

‘But we cannot underestimate the task at hand to keep 1.5C alive,’ he went on.

‘Countries must come back to the table this week ready to make the bold compromises and ambitious commitments needed.’ 

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