France adopts national climate change plan

Hundred measures include new energy tax, target to stabilise transport carbon emissions

A new energy tax forms the centrepiece of a national climate change strategy adopted by the French government yesterday. The plan comprises 100 actions aimed at enabling France to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2008-12, addressing transport, industry, construction, land-use planning, forestry and other sectors. The government claims to be the first to adopt such a wide-ranging climate action programme.

Plans to introduce a tax on intermediate energy products have been on the cards since last year (ENDS Daily 19 July 1999). Yesterday, the government revealed that the tax was likely to start next year at euros 23-30 (FFr150-200) per tonne of carbon, raising around euros 760m. The price could rise to about euros 76 per tonne by 2010, prime minister Lionel Jospin said.

Following recent experience with a similar UK energy tax plan, the French government plans to exempt energy-intensive industries, but only in exchange for voluntary commitments to reduce emissions. The strategy also allows for future development of market-based mechanisms such as emissions trading between businesses.

Among the plan's many other elements is an objective to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2020. It also confirms a previous objective of reducing a tax differential between petrol and diesel that has long made diesel relatively cheap in France compared with other EU countries (ENDS Daily 23 July 1998).

State support for renewable energy is to be stepped up, while energy efficiency standards for buildings are to be tightened. In addition, efforts are to be made to achieve a better balance between different freight transport modes. Meanwhile, reinforced cooperation between central and regional government is promised during forthcoming negotiations on regional plans.

More is to be done to control methane emissions from landfill sites, including a legal requirement to recover the methane. Other measures aim at reducing nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from the chemical industry as well as industrial emissions of other gases controlled under the Kyoto protocol, such as sulphur hexafluoride and perfluorocarbons.

The government stresses that full implementation of some measures - especially market-based ones - will require agreement at EU level. It also pledges France to ratify the Kyoto protocol soon after the next meeting of parties to its parent convention due this autumn. France will host a preparatory international conference in September to prepare for this critical meeting, the government said.

Follow Up:
French prime minister's office, tel: +33 1 42 75 80 00. Official press release.

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