January 20, 2010
A new French Revolution too?
"A poll released Wednesday showed that the public appeared to have turned against the planned tax. The survey by pollster ViaVoice showed 51 percent of the French thought the government should abandon it."
France prepares fresh carbon tax plans
France renewed efforts on Wednesday to become the first big economy to tax harmful carbon emissions, with the government due to thrash out new plans for the measure to curb climate change.
Ministers were due to draw up amendments to a law that was rejected last month by the country's high court, days before it was to kick in -- an embarrassing setback for President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The tax is aimed at encouraging French consumers to stop wasting energy, but the court ruled that too many exemptions created inequalities and unfairly placed the burden of cuts on a minority of consumers.
Sarkozy had fiercely defended the measure in the face of strong public opposition, calling it a "revolutionary" approach in the fight against climate change and making it a pillar of his 2010 budget.
France would be the biggest economy to apply a direct carbon tax, mirroring measures that exist in Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said he would propose plans to preserve most of the earlier bill, vowing not to hit families and key sectors hard, while seeking an agreement on how to tax heavy industry by July.
"We will not touch households, hauliers or fishermen," Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo told reporters.
Industries such as metals and refineries, seen as major polluters, were spared under the earlier tax plan since they were already subject to European emissions quotas.
Borloo announced plans to launch formal talks with companies and authorities on ways to tax industry fairly, possibly through incentive schemes and tax credits.
After this consultation he aims to present a new bill to parliament by May.
While pursuing environmental reforms on the one hand, Sarkozy risks jeopardising another of his major priorities: making French businesses more competitive.
When the bill was struck down last month, numerous industry bodies said they feared that a new version would penalise them, hurting their competitiveness.
The leading business association, Medef, called on Tuesday for the tax to be postponed to 2011 and said it should be introduced throughout the European Union in order to avoid putting French industry at a competitive disadvantage.
"Such an approach would avoid all distortion of competition," said Medef's leader Laurence Parisot.
She added that an EU-level tax would strengthen Europe's stance in fighting global warming after the Copenhagen climate summit last month, where world leaders failed to reach a climate binding deal.
A poll released Wednesday showed that the public appeared to have turned against the planned tax. The survey by pollster ViaVoice showed 51 percent of the French thought the government should abandon it.