France backs off plans for carbon tax

Thibault Leroux

PARIS (AP) — France backed down Tuesday 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 last September, has been on the back burner since being ruled unconstitutional in December. Sarkozy’s government had insisted a reworked tax would nonetheless go into force by July.

Leading conservative legislator Jean-Francois Cope said after meeting the prime minister that they agreed that any carbon tax “would be Europe-wide or not (exist) at all,” instead of being a French-only tax.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon’s office said in a statement later Tuesday that the government would request that the European Commission 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 disadvantage French companies compared to European rivals.

The decision to back down on a headline reform that Sarkozy had once compared to decolonization and the repeal of the death penalty comes two days after the president’s UMP party suffered a stinging defeat in regional elections.

France’s business lobby applauded the government’s withdrawal of the plan.

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