Climate Feedback

Q&A: France unveils carbon tax

Over on Nature News, Declan Butler has a detailed briefing on the new carbon tax unveiled in France last week:

France is set to become the first major European economy to implement a carbon tax — a levy on activities that emit substantial amounts of carbon dioxide.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, announced on 10 September that the tax would come into effect at the start of 2010. The tax draws largely on recommendations made on 28 July by an expert panel commissioned by the government, and chaired by the former Socialist prime minister, Michel Rocard.

Nature discussed the tax with Jean Jouzel, a member of the Rocard panel, director of the Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute near Versailles, and also the French representative on the executive of the International Panel on Climate Change.

The French carbon tax will be levied at a rate of €17 (US$25) per tonne of CO2 — the current market price. Is that enough to change people’s carbon-emitting habits?

What’s most important is that a carbon tax of some sort is going to be introduced. Starting at €32 per tonne, as our report recommended, would have been more courageous. The economists on the panel considered that €40 was the minimum for the carbon tax to be effective in changing consumer behaviour, so €32 was itself already a compromise. It’s true that the plan is to phase in higher carbon prices over time, but Sarkozy failed to give further details. In the longer term, by around 2020, we need to reach a price of €100–€200 per tonne.

Read the full interview here.

Anna Barnett


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