The EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) will put a fair price on the carbon emitted during the production of carbon intensive goods that are entering the EU, and encourage cleaner industrial production in non-EU countries. The gradual introduction of the CBAM is aligned with the phase-out of the allocation of free allowances under the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) to support the decarbonisation of EU industry.
It will equalise the price of carbon between domestic products and imports. This will ensure that the EU's climate policies are not undermined by production relocating to countries with less ambitious green standards or by the replacement of EU products by more carbon-intensive imports. CBAM is a WTO-compatible measure that encourages global industry to embrace greener and more sustainable technologies.
By confirming that a price has been paid for the embedded carbon emissions generated in the production of certain goods imported into the EU, the CBAM will ensure the carbon price of imports is equivalent to the carbon price of domestic production, and that the EU's climate objectives are not undermined. The CBAM is designed to be compatible with WTO-rules.
On 1 October 2023, the CBAM entered into application in its transitional phase, with the first reporting period for importers ending 31 January 2024.
The transitional phase will serve as a learning period for all stakeholders (importers, producers and authorities). It will allow the European Commission to collect useful information on embedded emissions in order to refine the methodology for the definitive period, which starts in 2026. As of that date, importers will need to buy and surrender the number of “CBAM certificates” corresponding to the GHGs embedded in imported CBAM goods.
The CBAM will initially apply to imports of certain goods and selected precursors whose production is carbon intensive and at most significant risk of carbon leakage: cement, iron and steel, aluminium, fertilisers, electricity and hydrogen. With this enlarged scope, CBAM will eventually – when fully phased in – capture more than 50% of the emissions in ETS covered sectors. The objective of the transitional period is to serve as a pilot and learning period for all stakeholders (importers, producers and authorities) and to collect useful information on embedded emissions to refine the methodology for the definitive period.
The Commission has also developed dedicated IT tools to help importers perform and report these calculations, as well as in-depth guidance, training materials and tutorials to support businesses when the transitional mechanism begins. While importers will be asked to collect fourth quarter data as of 1 October 2023, their first report will only have to be submitted by the end of January 2024.
Once the permanent system enters into force on 1 January 2026, importers will need to declare each year the quantity of goods imported into the EU in the preceding year and their embedded GHG. They will then surrender the corresponding number of CBAM certificates. The price of the certificates will be calculated depending on the weekly average auction price of EU ETS allowances expressed in €/tonne of CO2 emitted. The phasing-out of free allocation under the EU ETS will take place in parallel with the phasing-in of CBAM in the period 2026-2034.
A review of the CBAM's functioning during its transitional phase will be concluded before the entry into force of the definitive system. At the same time, the product scope will be reviewed to assess the feasibility of including other goods produced in sectors covered by the EU ETS in the scope of the CBAM mechanism, such as certain downstream products and those identified as suitable candidates during negotiations. The report will include a timetable setting out their inclusion by 2030.
The CBAM aims to align its trade policies with its ambitious climate goals and ensure that imported goods meet the same environmental standards as those produced within the EU and its implementation will have implications for international trade and climate policy discussions. Other regions and countries are also exploring similar mechanisms to address carbon leakage and promote global emissions reductions.
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Source: European Commission