Nothing gets the New York Times into an ideological frenzy like threats to “free trade”. This obsession is worth a study in itself, but we’ll let it pass. For now, let’s just insert a modest correction into the record: there is nothing protectionist about border taxes designed to offset the difference in production costs due to differences in carbon regulation. First of all, the issue is pragmatic: unless such taxes are introduced, no country will unilaterally introduce a carbon cap or any other measure that increases the costs of carbon-intensive goods. And if they did, it is quite possible that the effect could be perverse—with production migrating from more regulated regions to unregulated ones, leading to more emissions overall. So there simply have to be border taxes based on carbon content.
But there is also no friction between practicality and principle. Look at it this way: considering the global emergency posed by climate change, any country that doesn’t begin to restrict its use of fossil fuels is actually subsidizing its producers. And we have the Times to tell us what a monumental threat subsidies pose to the world economy.