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25th May 2019

Paris wants pan-European carbon tax

  • The French leader wants the bloc to embrace carbon tariffs at the EU's borders (Photo: EUobserver)

France intends to push for a tax on carbon emissions across the European Union, President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday (6 December), a week after his country's top court struck down an attempt to introduce just such a tax domestically.

Mr Sarkozy also wants to see carbon "tariffs" slapped on products entering the EU from countries with weaker environmental legislation.

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"We will not accept goods that fail to conform to our environmental standards," the French leader told a group of businessmen in Cholet, French media reports.

"In future we will levy a 'climate tax' at Europe's borders."

Any carbon tariff move is likely to meet with stiff resistance from other EU member states, particularly the more free-trade oriented nations, who would view such a levy as a form of protectionism.

When an EU carbon tax imposed at the borders of the bloc was first mooted at a meeting of European environment ministers last July, the idea was given a frosty reception, particularly by Germany.

Mr Sarkozy's words come just a week after his flagship carbon tax was struck down by the country's top court as unjust and counterproductive to the fight against climate change.

The Constitutional Court last Wednesday (30 December) ruled that the law, announced in September and originally due to enter into force from 1 January, had included so many loopholes that some 93 percent of industrial greenhouse gas emissions would have been exempt.

The judges found that this placed the overwhelming burden of the tax, set at €17 per tonne of CO2 emitted, on households instead of industry.

The opposition Socialists as well as the Green Party and some 70 percent of the population were opposed to the law, which would have increased household gas bills and the cost of petrol significantly.

In response, the French government is to present a re-edited version of the bill on 20 January, taking into consideration the court's objections.

On Tuesday, French finance minister Christine Lagarde said that the new law would would involve a progressive tax, with different brackets similar to income taxation.

Left-wing opponents of carbon taxes have argued that they are stealth attempts at introducing flat taxation under the guise of helping the environment.

Paris hopes the new bill will enter into force on 1 July.

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