TODAY and tomorrow a conference of experts is being held in Paris to discuss a new tax on carbon emissions.
The idea of a carbon tax (officially contribution climat-énergie) was one of the key elements in the ecological pact which TV presenter Nicolas Hulot drew up during the 2007 presidential elections, which was signed by most of the candidates.
It also features in the Grenelle Environnement law which is currently having its second reading in the Senate.
The tax, which is expected to be introduced by 2011, could generate as much as eight billion euros a year, according to the environmental agency Ademe. It remains to be worked out exactly how it would be applied, but obvious targets include oil, gas, diesel and coal, with the aim of encouraging use of greener alternatives.
The way the money would be used also remains to be worked out. At the Grenelle debate in 2007 it was suggested the money could go on public transport or other environmentally-friendly projects. Now, however, it is being suggested it could be used to lower other payments such as social charges. Mr Hulot has proposed it be redistributed as a bonus (of an equal amount) to everyone.
The tax would not apply to heavy industry, which already has its emissions held in check by European quotas, however it would be likely to impact on sectors like transport, building and farming, which account for about 80% of emissions.
The discussions this week are being chaired by the former Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard (pictured), who has long been an advocate of a carbon tax and believes that it would be as important an innovation as the introduction of income tax.
Photo: Stéphane Urbanovski