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The French Carbon Tax

Autopsy of an Ambition

Éloi Laurent

The French carbon tax was to become in 2010 the centerpiece of the country's new climate change mitigation strategy. After a heated public debate, the Constitutional Council, France's higher constitutional law body, censored the executive's proposal, which in turn, in the aftermath of a severe electoral defeat, announced the indefinite postponement of the carbon tax. This article tries to make sense of this important sequence in French contemporary public life by reviewing its different facets: environmental economics, political economy, constitutional law, and finally politics.

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Robert Eastwood

This article is a non-technical review of the economics of global policy on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Quite a lot is known about the likely physical consequences of anthropogenic climate change, but much uncertainty remains. In particular, account needs to be taken of possible catastrophes such as ice sheet melting. How are we to balance the known costs of taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the present against the uncertain benefits of such action for future generations? How convincing is the case for substantial measures to be undertaken now? If the case for such action is accepted, should emissions be controlled via Kyoto-style national emissions targets or by the imposition of carbon taxes? How can the challenges of burden sharing between developed and developing countries be addressed?