Last modified: October 31, 2007

Last modified: October 31, 2007

Last modified: October 27, 2007

Last modified: October 26, 2007

Last modified: October 26, 2007

Last modified: October 25, 2007

Sarkozy backs carbon tax, EU levy on non-Kyoto imports

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, appearing alongside Al Gore at an environmental forum in Paris, today called for a national
"carbon tax" on global-warming pollutants and a European levy on imports from countries outside the Kyoto Protocol, according to Agence France-Presse.

Following are excerpts from AFP’s report posted on the Web in the last hour:

Wrapping up a four-month forum on the environment that brought together the government, industry and the green lobby, Sarkozy said he would consider shifting part of France’s tax burden from labour to pollutants, a key demand of environmentalists.

Versailles.jpg"We need to profoundly revise all of our taxes… to tax pollution more, including fossil fuels, and to tax labour less."

Addressing European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, who had taken the podium before him, Sarkozy urged Europe to "examine the option of taxing products imported from countries that do not respect the Kyoto Protocol."

As Europe was setting tough standards on its producers for the benefit of the global climate, it was unfair for their competitors to be exempted, he argued.

"I suggest to you that in the next six months, the European Union discuss the implications of this unfair competition," he said.

Guest of honour at the ceremony, the Nobel-winning former US vice president Al Gore paid a powerful tribute to the forum — pledged by Sarkozy before his election in May — saying it was a "tremendous boost" for global efforts to fight climate change.

"Today you become known as a great friend of the people of this planet," said Gore , 59, who won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to raise awareness about climate change. The Kenyan green advocate Wangari Maathai, Nobel winner in 2004, was also present.

Sarkozy endorsed a raft of measures to slash
France’s greenhouse-gas emissions, cut pollution and foster biodiversity, hammered out at a series of round tables over the last
two days of the forum.

"Your ideas, I make them my own. I will support them and I will carry them out," Sarkozy told participants.

Pledges ranged from a freeze on the building of new highways and airports, to a
vast plan to shift freight traffic from road to rail, to a commitment to try to slash pesticide use by half within 10 years in Europe’s
biggest farm producer.

Tramway and TGV high-speed train networks are to be extended, and drivers coaxed into buying cleaner cars through bonuses and penalties.

Sarkozy promised a nationwide push to improve the energy efficiency of all new and existing buildings.

Asked to rule on the divisive issue of a carbon tax, Sarkozy pledged to study the creation of a "climate-energy tax", "in exchange for an alleviation of labour taxes", but was careful to reassure French business leaders there would be no increase in overall taxation.

Environmentalists suggest such a tax, calculated from the greenhouse gases emitted to produce and market goods, would be "painless" for consumers and business, starting at a few cents per litre of fuel.

France’s star environmentalist Nicolas Hulot, who pushed green issues to the top of the agenda of the last presidential campaign, said he was "happy and confident" following
Sarkozy’s speech.

Arnaud Gossement, spokesman for France Nature Environment, an umbrella group of 3,000 associations, also reacted positively.

"For the first time, we have a president who does not pit economy, growth and ecology against each other… even though he was elected on a pro-growth platform," he said.

Laurence Parisot, the head of the French employers federation, MEDEF, said Sarkozy’s speech was "well balanced" but that it was too soon to judge the impact on business.

Photo: Feuillu / Flickr

Last modified: October 25, 2007

Last modified: October 25, 2007

Last modified: October 24, 2007

China Moving Toward Price on Carbon?

A major new report commissioned by the governments of China and Brazil has called for a carbon tax — or a carbon cap-and-trade system that would also impose a carbon price.

Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future, authored by leading scientists and
energy experts from 13 countries including Russia, India, Canada,
Kenya, Egypt, Japan, and the U.S., along with Brazil and China, calls for "a wide variety of policy instruments [including] market incentives such as a price or cap on carbon emissions (which can be especially effective in influencing long-term capital investment decisions)." Beijing_cyclists.jpg(The quote is from Section 4, The Role of Government and the Contribution of Science and Technology. Our Quote of the Week is drawn from the final "Conclusion" section, Lighting the Way.)

How high a price? Here’s what the report authors, who were assembled by the InterAcademy Council, a group representing the world’s 150 scientific and engineering academies, and were chaired by Nobel Laureate Stephen Chu, Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and José Goldemberg, Professor, University of São Paulo, Brazil, had to say:

Opinions vary as to the level of price signals that are warranted, but many experts believe that a price on the order of US$100–150 per ton of carbon equivalent emissions (in other widely used units, US$27–41 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions) may be necessary to overcome current cost differentials for many low- and non-carbon technologies and to stimulate the large-scale changes that will be required to eventually stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

It is important … to emphasize … that establishing in every market that there eventually will be an emissions price—in the range of US$100–150 per avoided metric ton of carbon equivalent (US$27–41 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent)—is more important than establishing exactly the number of years in which such a transition will occur. For many countries, pragmatic considerations are likely to argue for a phased and multi-pronged approach, wherein an initial carbon price signal is gradually increased over time and complemented by other policies to address remaining market barriers and accelerate the commercialization of more efficient,
lower-carbon technologies.

(from Section 4.3 The importance of market signals)

Without indicating a preference, the report states clearly that the carbon price must come about from either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, which it compares clearly and fairly here.

In putting its imprimatur on the report, the Chinese government has taken a major step in dismantling what The New York Times earlier this year called "an alliance of denial [in which] China and the United States are using each other’s inaction as an excuse to do nothing" about the global climate crisis.

Co-chairs of the InterAcademcy Council are Bruce Alberts, Past President, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and Lu Yongxiang, President, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Photo: nataliebehring.com / Flickr

Last modified: October 23, 2007