Macron’s U-turn on eco-tax rise gives green lobby fuel for thought

(The Guardian, 4 Dec 2018) Defeat by gilets jaunes will make others think twice before taking similar steps to cut emissions.

Emmanuel Macron’s defeat by the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement over a proposed eco-tax rise is likely to come as a painful lesson for environmental policymakers at this week’s UN climate talks in Katowice.

After the most violent protests in Paris for half a century, the French president has been forced to postpone a planned eco-tax rise on fuel, showing how ecological measures can have explosive consequences if there is any suggestion they are being used to “greenwash” austerity.

Other leaders will need better timing and a far defter political touch before they introduce similar measures to reduce carbon emissions.

Dozens of countries and cities have introduced or drawn up plans for carbon taxes to speed the transition from fossil fuels that are warming the planet to increasingly dangerous levels. They are rarely easy to implement. There have also been protests and political backwards steps in Belgium, Tunisia, Algeria and Canada.

Macron has positioned himself as one of the pioneers. He has championed the Paris climate agreement and promised to make France an example of how economies can grow as they cut carbon emissions. In contrast to the me-first-ism of Donald Trump, the French leader’s slogan has been “Make our planet great again”.

According to government officials, this goal was behind the plan to increase petrol prices by four euro cents a litre from January. This, they said, was one of several steps towards France’s commitment to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030 and to ban sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.

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The Guardian, 4 Dec 2018: Macron’s U-turn on eco-tax rise gives green lobby fuel for thought