French President Nicolas Sarkozy Urges Carbon Tax


In a recent speech, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sought to convince compatriots of the need for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions by households and businesses. France’s imposition of a carbon tax would help the country reduce its greenhouse gas output in upcoming years, and it would make France the largest economy so far to impose such a tax.

While the details of the tax are to be determined, according to a report by, the tax would add several Euro cents per liter of gasoline (4 cents), diesel fuel (4.5 cents), natural gas (0.4 cents per kilowatt), and coal. The tax wouldn’t apply to electricity, since France obtains most of its electricity from nuclear power (which doesn’t emit greenhouse gases). The tax would also increase progressively.

The tax would be based initially on the market price for carbon permits. At the present market value of 17 Euros ($24.74) per ton of CO2, the French government could raise approximately 3 billion Euros in taxes. The government would return that sum to households and businesses by reducing other taxes or through direct reimbursement. As a result, the tax burden would be shifted to fossil fuel-derived energy sources, thereby discouraging those energy sources’ use.

Despite the tax’s potential benefits, approximately two-thirds of the French oppose the measure. A tax of 32 Euros per ton of CO2 would cost a citizen an average of 160 Euros ($230) per year – the equivalent of an 8-cent increase on the price of a liter of gasoline.

Implementation of a carbon tax increase now could increase France’s influence in the upcoming UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in December. Earlier this year, former Prime Minister Michel Rocard led a team of experts in hashing out a general outline for the proposed tax. France has debated the idea of carbon taxation since at least 2007, when then-Presidential candidate Nicolas Hulot maintained carbon taxation as part of his electoral platform.

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.

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