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France - carbon tax

Sarkozy announces carbon tax

Article published on the 2009-09-10 Latest update 2009-09-10 14:08 TU

Nicolas Sarkozy in Artemare(Photo: AFP)

Nicolas Sarkozy in Artemare
(Photo: AFP)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday announced a carbon tax of 14 euros per tonne of CO2 emitted, dubbing the move "a fiscal revolution".

"If things don't change, it will be your children who pay the price," Sarkozy told an audience at a heat pump factory in the east of the country when he finally announced the much-debated tax.

And he announced a higher rate than Prime Minister François Fillon had previously floated - 17 euros per tonne, rather than 14 euros.

The levy on oil, gas and coal consumption will hit household and businesses and will come into effect next year. It will not apply to electricity, which in France is largely generated by nuclear power which does not emit greenhouse gases.

Environment campaigners Greenpeace declared that the tax will not change people's behaviour and will not encourage energy saving or renewable energy.

The tax has created controversy in Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party, with MPs fearing a backlash after opinion polls showed about two-thirds of voters opposed to it.

And the left has criticised it for being a flat-rate tax, thus allegedly penalising poorer households and residents of rural areas who have little access to public transport.

The government promises to issue "green cheques", which will redistribute tax revenues and Sarkozy says that struggling businesses in agriculture, fisheries and transport may be exempted.

Sarkozy also announced plans for a "clean cars" programme, which will offer a 5,000-euro bonus to people buying environmentally-friendly cars. Details are to be unveiled on 23 September.

Finland was the first European country to introduce a carbon tax, in 1990. It was followed by Sweden and Denmark.

France has a target of 75 per cent reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050. A UN conference on climate change is to take place in Copenhagen  in December.