Reuters News Service, Nov. 14, 2006
PARIS - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin proposed on Monday introducing punitive taxes on imports from countries that refused to sign the UN's Kyoto Protocol, which is aimed at curbing global warming.
Kyoto binds 35 developing nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, but the world's top two polluters, the United States and China have not signed the pact.
Some 189 countries are debating a united response to the threat of climate change at a 2-week conference in Nairobi, but Villepin said the talks were struggling and urged Europe to look at ways of pressurising states into backing Kyoto.
"Europe has to use all its weight to stand up to this sort of environmental dumping," the prime minister told a meeting on sustainable development, according to the text of his speech published on his official website.
"I would like us to study now with our European partners the principle of a carbon tax on the import of industrial products from countries which refuse to commit themselves to the Kyoto protocol after 2012," he said.
Villepin added that France would make concrete proposals about how such a tax might work in the first quarter of 2007. French officials are also expected to promote the plan at the Nairobi meeting, which runs until Nov. 17.
"The environment is a global issue. Our efforts will be worthless if we are the only ones fighting for the future of the planet," the prime minister said.
On the domestic front, Villepin said his government would impose a tax on coal usage and would increase taxes on industrial pollution and aircraft noise pollution by 10 percent.
He also suggested that trucks in "sensitive zones" like the Alpine regions, might face higher taxes or road tolls.
By contrast, tax breaks would be offered to families that renovated their houses to make them more energy efficient.
Environmental issues are moving up the French political agenda ahead of the 2007 presidential elections, with politicians of all colours promoting their green credentials.
Kyoto has become something of a litmus test of international willingness to avert what many scientists say will be severe disruptions to the climate such as heatwaves, floods, desertification and rising sea levels.
US President George W. Bush pulled out of Kyoto in 2001 saying that it wrongly set no targets for developing nations and would be too costly.