By ANGELIQUE CHRISAFIS
NICOLAS SARKOZY yesterday vowed to lead the fight to “save the human race” from global warming, launching a carbon tax to encourage French families and industry to cut their use of fossil fuels.
From 2010 France will be the biggest European economy to levy a carbon tax, following other successful schemes introduced by Nordic countries in the 1990s.
The tax – initially set at €17 per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions – will be levied on individuals and businesses for fossil fuel consumption. Family fuel bills will rise, while businesses will pay more for factories run on fossil fuels.
In a speech peppered with warnings about the need for France to take the lead in fighting climate change, Mr Sarkozy said: “There are no reserves left. It’s a question of survival of the human race.”
He said his aim was to change French habits to prepare for a post-petrol economy, to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and to tax actions that damage society. “There is one objective: to encourage homes and businesses to change their behaviour.”
After weeks of government gaffes and public rows about what form the tax would take, pre-speech polls showed two-thirds of French people opposed the measure.
Mr Sarkozy had likened his “historic” task of convincing the public to support the carbon tax to other key moments in France, such as decolonisation and the abolition of the death penalty.
But families in isolated areas had feared being punished for using their cars.
Farmers and transport companies warned that the tax was unfair, and opposition parties called the president Monsieur Taxe for bumping up the fiscal burden.
Meanwhile, green politicians and environmental groups said the tax was a wasted opportunity and did not go far enough.
Carbon-rationing for everyone because of legally-binding targets to cut emissions *