France steps back on carbon emissions tax

Associated Press / March 24, 2010

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PARIS — France yesterday backed down from a plan to tax carbon dioxide emissions that had been a central plank of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s push for a more prominent role in the global fight against climate change.

The plan, launched by Sarkozy with much fanfare in September, has been on the back burner since being ruled unconstitutional in December. Sarkozy’s government had insisted a reworked tax would go into force by July.

Jean-François Copé, a leading conservative legislator, said after meeting with the prime minister that they agreed that any carbon tax “would be Europe-wide or not [exist] at all.’’

Prime Minister François Fillon’s office said in a statement later yesterday that the government would ask the European Commission to accelerate plans to harmonize environmental taxation across the continent.

The tax had been part of France’s plan to meet its pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions fourfold from 1990 levels by 2050. Some environmental groups criticized the tax as not strict enough.

Many within Sarkozy’s own conservative party criticized the tax, arguing that it would put French companies at a disadvantage compared with European rivals.

The decision was made two days after the president’s UMP party suffered a stinging defeat in regional elections.

Sarkozy’s plan would have made France the largest economy to impose a carbon tax.