UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


PhD student shares expert insights on Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms with parliamentary staff

3 May 2024

In March 2024, Rixt van der Valk (UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources (ISR) PhD student) presented as an external expert to the parliamentary climate and environment network on the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM). 

Image of the UK House of Commons

Rixt van der Valk raised important policy issues to aid in incorporating CBAM-related issues into parliamentary work, at a parliamentary staff seminar on the political, environmental, economic and industrial impact of the EU and UK CBAMs. 

Tell us about your research in this area 

My research looks at policies targeting embodied carbon emissions, encompassing the entire lifecycle of products and services – these emissions are crucial for achieving comprehensive carbon reduction.  

I explore the effects of implementing maximum carbon standards in the built environment, a regulatory policy which aims to address these embodied emissions. However, I believe a mix of different policy instruments are necessary to do this. This includes economic climate policies such as Emissions Trading Systems (ETS) combined with CBAMs, which was the focus of the seminar.  

In the presentation I focussed on the aims, mechanisms, global ramifications, and criticisms of the EU CBAM. This new mechanism seeks to level the playing field between domestic and foreign producers, by imposing the same price on embodied carbon of imported goods as the price on embodied carbon set by the EU Emission Trading Scheme.  

The first policy of its kind, EU CBAM represents a pivotal strategy in the EU’s efforts to address carbon emissions, aiming to account for the carbon cost of producing imported goods. This policy has significant implications for international trade, with the UK and other non-EU countries facing potential economic and industrial repercussions. 

Despite objections from some trading partners and concerns over fairness and compatibility with WTO rules, CBAMs are gaining traction globally, with governments like the UK, Canada, and the US considering and designing their implementation.  

The proliferation of CBAMs underscores the need for coordinated international efforts to address embodied carbon emissions, with ongoing debates over fairness/equity, and the role of trade in achieving global climate goals. These discussions are critical in the development of effective policy mixes as the UK, among other countries, navigates the challenges and opportunities of CBAMs.  

What was the experience like?  

It’s great to know there’s a big interest in the topic among parliamentary staff, many of them have been engaged in the topic for longer than I have. I feel privileged to discuss these policies with such knowledgeable policymakers, as well as learn from the other presentations on the day from industry and academic experts.  

What was your main learning? 

My main learning is that research and perspectives to inform legislative discussions can be close-knit – research is based on policy making, and policy making is based on research. The UK government is incredibly open in fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange between academia, industry and government to develop crucial climate policies.  

How did this opportunity come about?  

The event was hosted by two newly formed policy Hubs in Parliament: the Climate and Environment Hub and the International Affairs and National Security Hub. The opportunity to contribute originally came through the UK Universities Climate Network (UUCN). As my research relates to embodied carbon emissions, my name was proposed for the teach-in seminar, and I was of course quick to say yes.  

Alistair Dillon, from the Climate and Environment Hub, said:

The job of parliamentary staff is to support parliamentarians in their scrutiny of the Government. We anticipate that this topic will be of increasing political interest over the next few years and so it is important to inform ourselves as comprehensively as possible. The input of expertise from the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources made for a highly engaging and informative session, which was welcomed by all participants. We are very grateful to the ISR for their contribution and to the UK Universities Climate Network for acting as the point of contact.


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