French government rallies to save carbon tax

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, December 31, 2009
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The French government rallied on Wednesday to save its long-disputed carbon tax law after France's Contitutional Council dramatically ruled it out two days before it was to take effect.

The Constitutional Council, France's legal compliance watchdog, argued Tuesday that the law was composed of too many exemptions for polluters and ran counter to the aim of fighting climate change. It demanded amendments.

State Secretary for Ecology Chantal Jouanno said Wednesday that President Nicolas Sarkozy, the main driver of the plan, was "very determined" to push forward a revised carbon tax before summer.

The tax, a pillar of Sarkozy's fiscal and environmental policy, was due to come into effect on Jan. 1, 2010. By imposing a levy on products causing carbon dioxide emissions, the tax aims to change consumer habits of overusing energy and give France leverage in environmental issues.

"France should retain its leading role in the battle to protect the environment," government spokesman Luc Chatel said. "The government is going to persevere."

Because France was undergoing "profound changes," frustration was normal and the veto was just "a problem of comprehension rather than principles," Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said.

Economics is another reason behind the efforts. The council's rejection would possibly expand next year's budget deficit by 1.5 billion euros (2.15 billion U.S. dollars), from 117.4 billion euros (167.9 billion dollars) to 118.9 billion euros (170 billion dollars), the Budget Ministry said.

The Constitutional Council said 93 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from industrial resources other than fuels would not be levied under the bill, including many of France's biggest polluters such as refineries, cement producers and cokeries.

This was unfair and against the spirit of protecting the environment, the council ruling said. Prime Minister Francois Fillon has promised to discuss a new plan with ministers on Jan. 20.

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