NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 19, 2006

France's recent foray into international environmental policy has the whiff of blackmail about it, says the Wall Street Journal.  Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin last month proposed a European Union carbon tax on imports from industrialized countries that won't commit to a post-2012 Kyoto Protocol.

In other words, sign the treaty or else ....  "We have decided to reinforce the principle that the polluter pays," he said.  As long as the "polluter" is from the United States or Australia, that is, the two developed economies that rejected Kyoto and aren't in any mood to approve a successor treaty:

  • France and the rest of the European Union signed up to Kyoto and proceeded to emit greenhouse gases at a faster clip than America.
  • Only two of the 15 old EU members are on track to meet their emissions commitments by 2010 -- France is not one of them.

Someone in Brussels is willing to stand up to Paris for a change.  Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson yesterday pointed out practical and legal problems, such as how to choose what goods to target?  The Villepin plan also probably runs afoul of the WTO, Mandelson said.  After all, "not participating in the Kyoto process is not illegal.  Nor is it a subsidy under WTO rules."

Externalizing externalities is an old French habit, says the Journal.  For decades Paris preferred to test its nuclear bombs off Australia's coast rather than in Provence.  So Aussies know when Paris tries to pull another fast one.  "That is a thoroughly silly proposal and utterly out of touch with reality," Prime Minister John Howard said last month.  Now that Mandelson agrees, let's hope this is the end of the "Green Tax."

Source: Editorial, "A Green Tax," Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2006.

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