France U-turn on car pollution tax

22nd July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 22 (AFP) - France on Thursday announced a scheme for trimming emissions of greenhouse gases but mothballed a proposal to slap taxes on big polluting cars after it ran into fire from conservative politicians and carmakers.

PARIS, July 22 (AFP) - France on Thursday announced a scheme for trimming emissions of greenhouse gases but mothballed a proposal to slap taxes on big polluting cars after it ran into fire from conservative politicians and carmakers.

The "2004 Climate Plan," unveiled by Ecology Minister Serge Lepeltier, will channel EUR 90 million (USD 108 million dollars) into about 60 measures aimed at reducing pollution by carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases blamed for global warming.

If all goes well, "it will even go beyond the 54 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent" that France has to save each year, Lepeltier said, referring to the 2010 deadline set by the UN's Kyoto Protocol.

The scheme includes perks for biofuels - diesel and other fuels that are come from crops - and additional tax breaks, from January 1, low-energy domestic appliances such as boilers, solar water heaters and high-insulation windows.

Energy classifications, an easy-to-spot sales tag that identifies the power consumption of refrigerators, TVs and other appliances, will be extended to air conditioners, cars, homes and offices.

But two major initiatives, both of them aimed at cars, were placed on the sidelines, triggering dismay among France's powerful green lobby.

Transport accounts for a quarter of France's greenhouse-gas emissions. The sector has experienced a huge rise in pollution - an increase of 23 percent in 2002 compared with the level of 1990.

The initiative, as sketched at its conception in September 2003, would slap taxes of between EUR 400 and 3,000 (USD 480 to 3,600) on cars that emit high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main global-warming gas.

Cleaner cars would enjoy a tax break of between EUR 250 and 700 (USD 300 and 840), according to the emission level.

But it ran into opposition from lawmakers in the ruling UMP party, as well as from makers of upscale cars that would have been most affected by the tax.

Lepeltier on Thursday stood by the tax, describing it as a "good measure, very important for the transport sector."

But he said it needed "national and European consultation." Sources said it had been downgraded to the status of a concept, rather than a proposal, and no date was being set for its implementation.

On Thursday, German car manufacturers expressed satisfaction that the tax had been sidelined. They described it as "unilateral and discriminatory."

Another radical proposal, to reduce the speed limit on French motorways from 130 to 120 kilometers (81 to 75 miles) per hour, was also recently abandoned after an 18-month wrangle.

France's green groups reacted angrily to the plan, saying it had been "gutted of any substance."

"This exercise in communication is nothing more than a smokescreen that is a poor cover for the total lack of will shown by president and the government," the groups said in a joint statement.

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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