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The EU’s carbon emissions trading system would impact on fish trade

31 October 2011

Globefish warns that ‘the current debate over the expansion of the EU’s emissions trading system from air-line traffic to other areas may have implications for a future agenda that could indirectly impact fisheries’.

By January 2012, the EU is planning to extend its carbon emissions trading system, which currently only applies to EU based polluters, to aviation flights emissions. This would require airlines with flights that land in or take off from European airports to purchase carbon permits from European governments. Globefish highlights the fact that some developing countries have already voiced criticisms, as emerging economies rely heavily on exports for growth and will largely bear the burden of these new rules from a trade perspective.

In Globefish’s view, ‘the way these new rules will be implemented could provide insight to future changes that will indirectly affect fisheries, as the EU commission ultimately wishes the post-2012 trading system to include maritime transport emissions in much the same way … Like other sectors, the fisheries sector relies heavily on maritime transport thanks to its efficient and cost-effective logistic systems, and a large amount of frozen fish and fishery products are carried by ships to European markets. If maritime transport is included in the EU emissions trading system, the price of traded fish could rise in the future. This could lead to higher prices for imported fish and reduce demand. At the same time it would stimulate regional trade in the developing world and thus further encourage demand in emerging economies closer to the main production areas. This trend is already under way as the new growth in fish consumption is seen in countries such as India, Malaysia, Brazil and Mexico’.

Editorial comment

Seafood, including from ACP countries, is one of the most internationally traded foods, and its delivery to markets like Europe often involves long-distance travel, by air or by sea.

The need for speed with perishable foods makes air cargo the only practical way to get fresh fish to far-flung customers. But once the seafood is frozen, it can take a slow boat trip to market: air freight produces at least 20 times more carbon dioxide than shipping. ACP fresh-fish exports are therefore likely to be much more affected than frozen-fish exports. However, increased freight charges incurred by the need to contribute to the costs of carbon emissions could become a reality for both fresh and frozen ACP fishery products to the EU market. This should send a strong warning signal to ACP exporters to, on the one hand, focus on high-quality products, so that consumers may have enough incentives to pay for the extra costs incurred and, on the other hand, find ways of diversifying their markets locally and regionally, to reduce their reliance on distant markets like the EU. 


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