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German think tank calls for 'climate tariffs' against US

December 23, 2019

A German think tank says the EU should fight back against US sanctions related to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Washington's threats have already caused construction firms to drop out of the project.

A ship lays pipe for the deep-sea pipeline Nordstream 2
Image: picture alliance/dpa/B. Wüsteneck

The EU should enact "climate tariffs" against the US in response to sanctions against the bloc for the construction of the deep sea gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, according to an economist at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW).

Climate tariffs are necessary to prevent gas extracted through fracking, an ecologically harmful process, from being exported from the US to Germany and the EU, environmental economist Claudia Kemfert told Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper on Monday.

Kemfert, who leads the energy, transportation and environment department at DIW, characterized US sanctions against the EU as an "aggressive instrument in a fossil energy war." Both Russia and the US are using natural gas as a "political weapon," she said, adding that the intention behind the sanctions is to sell US gas to Germany and the EU at the highest possible cost.

Infografik Karte Gas pipelines Europa Nord Stream EN

The economist agreed that criticism of the gas pipeline connecting Germany and Russia through the Baltic Sea is justified, saying that it is "environmentally harmful, economically unnecessary and financially unprofitable."

But the US sanctions are "unacceptable" and Europe should stand up to them, she said. Russia has also announced retaliatory measures, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying "how and when it will be done remains a question of Russia's national interests."

Germany keeps its cool

In a response given Monday, German Coordinator of Trans-Atlantic Cooperation Peter Beyer said countertariffs were not the solution. Escalating the conflict would be inappropriate, the coordinator told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, saying it should instead be solved through political means.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump signed legislation that included sanctions against companies and individuals that work on the Nord Stream 2 project. The measures, which have yet to go into effect, include a ban on entering the US and the freezing of assets held there. 

Read more: How the Druzhba pipeline brought East Germans and Ukrainians together

In response, Allseas, the Swiss-based company laying the pipeline, announced it was suspending its involvement in the project.

The pipeline, which will be 2,400 kilometers (1,491 miles) long, is just 300 kilometers short of completion.

Germany fears sanctions will delay the continued construction of the pipeline, Beyer said. The pipeline is currently pegged for completion in the second half of 2020. The group responsible for the construction said it hoped to complete the project as soon as possible.

Read more: Nord Stream 2: What Berlin thinks about halting construction

Nordstream 2 is nearing completion but controversy remains

kp/mm (AP, AFP, epd, Reuters)

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