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AWU backs calls for carbon tariff to protect local industry

January 20, 2023

The AWU is backing calls to impose an import tax on steel, aluminium, glass, cement and other products from countries that are not working to cut carbon emissions.

The Federal Government is considering new tariffs – CBAMs, or carbon border adjustment mechanisms – after unveiling tough new industry emission-reduction regulations, including a carbon price of up to $75 a tonne.

But there are fears emission caps and the new carbon price will put trade-exposed Australian businesses at a disadvantage and simply shift pollution and jobs offshore.

AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said a CBAM-style import tariff was essential to protect the jobs of workers in emissions-intensive industries.

“The Government must start exploring how a carbon tariff will work effectively in Australia,” Mr Walton said.

“Without one, our businesses will face unfair competition from dirty imports from countries with shocking environmental standards and regulations.

“That could lead to the offshoring of thousands of jobs, which would be disastrous for Australian workers, our economy, and the global environment.

“We need to create a level playing field to make sure that products we will need for years to come can still be made in Australia.”

The AWU has members in more than 140 high-emitting facilities covered by the carbon “safeguard mechanism,” which is currently under review by the Government.

Under the safeguard­ mechanism, more than 200 of the country’s biggest industrial emitters will be required to cut emissions by an average of 4.9 per cent each year to 2030, to help Australia meet its 43 per cent greenhouse gas reduction target and net zero by 2050.

But these businesses compete against imported Chinese steel, chemicals from the US, UK and Europe, and clinker from Asia used to make cement.

Nations around the world have or are considering a carbon tariff, including the European Union, with its CBAM due to be phased in this year.

The EU aims to stop “carbon leakage” by imposing a tariff on the import of foreign iron and steel, cement, fertilisers, aluminium, electricity, and hydrogen, if these products do not face the same carbon price as goods under the EU emissions-trading system

The Australian Industry Group, Business Council of Australia, Grattan Institute and Cement Industry Federation are among the groups pressing the Government to introduce a CBAM.

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