Saturday, 1 December 2018

Climate change: France introducing a carbon tax is "a masterclass in how not to sell climate policy"

First, Paris hosted the big conference on climate change:
Futures Forum: Climate change: looking towards Paris
Futures Forum: Climate change: the future of the Paris Agreement
Futures Forum: Climate change: the Transition Town perspective on COP21

As it does have to do something about the effects of carbon pollution:
Futures Forum: Car Free Day Sunday 27th September >>> in Paris
Futures Forum: What to do about car emissions: from Paris to London... ... ... ... yet again...
Futures Forum: What to do about car emissions: from Paris to London...

Meanwhile, the government in Paris is trying to pursue new energy policies:
Futures Forum: France and nuclear power

Including a carbon tax:
CARBON PRICING - A lever for energy transition - www.ecologique-solidaire.gouv.fr

But as rioting starts up again on the streets of Paris, the ironies are not lost on the commentators:

Parisians are now rioting against the Paris climate accords

by Tiana Lowe
| November 26, 2018

In France all hell is breaking loose. Parisians, who live in the city of the climate accords that were supposed to save us all, are rioting. More than a quarter million protesters have taken to the streets to revolt against a rising fuel tax amid France's already exorbitant taxes.

Nearly half of France's gross domestic product is already eaten up by taxation. You might think that that frog has already been boiled, yet this environmentally inspired carbon tax proves otherwise. It is the straw that broke the camel's back.

Police deployed over 5,000 tear gas grenades and water cannons against the protesters, who donned yellow jackets for the second weekend in a row.

As a recently released report from the U.S. government demonstrates, climate change does not only have the capacity to destroy the planet in the long term but also to wreck our economy. It's a pressing and significant issue that both the country and the world will have to grapple with before it becomes catastrophic.

But the scenes of France on fire are good reminders that attempts to drive down energy use or drive up its cost tend to suffer from a lack of consent from the governed.

The best economic argument for a carbon tax is that the market price of goods and services resulting in carbon emissions fail to include the true social and environmental costs of carbon emissions. Carbon taxes can result in significant deadweight losses, but a good politician would mostly lean on the economics of a carbon tax to sell it to the people.

Or you might argue, as French President Emmanuel Macron does, that one should prefer the taxation of fuel over the taxation of labor, even though the former is regressive and affects the poor more than the rich.

Macron's messaging is a masterclass in how not to sell climate policy. Almost 80 percent of the French people now support the protesters, whereas only a quarter have a favorable opinion of Macron. As it turns out, there are limits to what the French will accept from their president, as there always are in a republic.

Whether a fuel tax is good or bad is still up for debate, but there's no question that forcing it down the public's throats while they are struggling economically is a losing strategy. Given the rapid rate at which carbon-reducing technology is advancing, a carbon tax may be more trouble than its worth.

Parisians are now rioting against the Paris climate accords - Washington Examiner

Especially as it is those who cannot afford it are being expected to pay:

Emmanuel Macron’s carbon tax collides with France’s forgotten

NOVEMBER 29, 2018

In September, just a few days after French President Emmanuel Macron’s environment minister resigned to protest the watering down of his policies, actress Juliette Binoche tapped 200 like-minded artists to sign a manifesto calling for “firm and immediate” action on climate change.

“We are living through a planetary cataclysm,” said Ms. Binoche, in a missive published in Le Monde alongside the likes of director Pedro Almodovar, actor Jude Law and writer Michael Ondaatje. “We thus consider that any political action that does not make fighting this cataclysm its concrete, declared and assumed priority will no longer be credible. We consider that a government that does not make saving what can still be saved its first objective will no longer be taken seriously … It is a question of survival. It cannot, by consequence, be considered secondary.”

Ms. Binoche and former environment minister Nicolas Hulot, who was France’s equivalent of David Suzuki before joining Mr. Macron’s cabinet last year, were back at it last week as star panelists on the main political talk show on France 2, the public broadcaster. “We’re out of time,” insisted Mr. Hulot, who is being urged by his fans to run for president in 2022. “Thirty years ago, we said we had 30 years to act. The latest report of the [United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] says we’ve only got two and a half years left.”

Even if you dispute Mr. Hulot’s timeline – the IPCC recently said global carbon emissions would need to fall by 45 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030 to prevent planetary warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius – there is little scientific doubt about our current trajectory. Very few countries are on track to meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets under the 2015 Paris climate accord.

And yet, Mr. Macron gives the impression of trying hard. It was the French President, after all, who vowed to “make the planet great again” after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull out of the Paris accord. Mr. Macron has pledged to spend more than €70-billion ($110-billion) on renewable energy subsidies by 2028. And, starting on Jan. 1, his government is set to implement a carbon tax that will increase the per-litre price of diesel fuel used by most French motorists by 26 centimes (39 cents) by 2022.

Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) protestors shout slogans as material burns during a protest against rising oil prices and living costs near the Arc of Triomphe on the Champs Elysees in Paris, on Nov. 24, 2018.


That latter plan has been thrown into limbo, however, by the massive protests of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) – so-named for the security vest every French driver must by law keep in his or her glove compartment – that have destabilized Mr. Macron’s government in recent weeks. While the hyperactive French President expected to endure opposition to his labour reforms and overhaul of the state-owned railway – opposition he successfully neutralized – the revolt against his carbon tax caught Mr. Macron and the Paris-based media completely off-guard. And yet, this uprising by a feeling-forgotten French periphery against an elite epitomized by Ms. Binoche and company should have been entirely predictable.

The gilets jaunes are rising up against what they see as an attack on their already difficult lifestyles. It’s easy for well-off elites to call for radical action to halt climate change, since such measures demand little of them. But for those who toil in factories that spew greenhouse gases and need their more cheaply priced diesel cars to get to work, Mr. Macron’s carbon taxes are a provocation.

The message of the elites, as internalized by the gilets jaunes, is that they are engaged in immoral behaviours simply by virtue of their dependence on industrial jobs and their cars. The gilets jaunes argue they’re just trying to make an honest living.

On Wednesday, Mr. Macron aimed to strike a compromise between the elites worried about “the end of the world” and the gilets jaunes just worried about “the end of the month.” While he stood firm on the first instalment of the fuel-tax increase set to take effect in 2019, he promised the carbon-tax increase in the following three years will be adjusted to take into account the market price of diesel gasoline. The compromise has failed to satisfy anyone.

There are parallels between what is happening in France and almost every other developed country, including Canada, as comfortable urban elites seek to impose their climate change agenda on a broader population just struggling to pay its bills and earn an honest buck. No amount of hand-wringing over the fate of the planet, be it by the IPCC or by the likes of Ms. Binoche, is going to resonate with people who do not feel the elites have their interests at heart.

Emmanuel Macron’s carbon tax collides with France’s forgotten - The Globe and Mail

It's beginning to feel like class war: of 'elites' vs the struggling 'left behind':
Gilets jaunes: why the French working poor are demanding Emmanuel Macron's resignation - The Conversation
In France, the pain behind the ‘yellow vest’ protests is felt mostly outside Paris - The Washington Post 

'End of the world' vs. 'end of the month': Macron walks tightrope amid fuel tax protests

'End of the world' vs. 'end of the month': Macron walks tightrope amid fuel tax protests - France 24

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