Futuribles Journal n° 356

Institutions - Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement - Société, modes de vie

The Debate on the Carbon Tax. Economists Tend to the Climate-Change Patient

Following the environmental summit held in 2007, which gave rise to a number of measures that are currently passing into law, the possible implementation of a “climate and energy” levy is currently being debated in France. France has, in fact, committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a factor of 4 between 1990 and 2050 and the introduction of such a levy – more commonly known as a “carbon tax” – forms part of the raft of instruments available to it for achieving that goal.

Christian de Perthuis, an expert in all aspects of this question, outlines this debate here. The discussion took a new turn with a conference of experts being held in July 2009, followed by a “high level” Round Table chaired by Michel Rocard, which produced a fairly comprehensive report on the pros and cons of a “climate and energy” levy in France. After reviewing the place of a carbon tax in the context of international regulations (particularly in respect of the carbon emission rights market), de Perthuis gives an account of the possibilities in this area: the tax-base and the rate of such a levy, the conditions of its social acceptability etc. The objective, the author reminds us, is to put in place a levy aimed at changing citizens’ behaviour in such a way that the tax eventually loses its justification, while, at the international level, a carbon tax of this kind would in no way exclude a market in emissions permits. All in all, a few weeks away from the Copenhagen Conference, which is intended to extend the Kyoto Protocol process on climate change, the debate is in full swing.

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