PARIS (AFP) French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday called for a national "carbon tax" on global-warming pollutants and a European levy on imports from countries outside the Kyoto Protocol.
Sarkozy mentioned no names, but any such levy is bound to be targeted at imports from the
Wrapping up a four-month forum on the environment that brought together the government, industry and the green lobby, Sarkozy said he would consider shifting part of France's tax burden from labour to pollutants, a key demand of environmentalists.
"I want this forum to be the founding act of a new kind of politics. An environmental new deal in
"We need to profoundly revise all of our taxes... to tax pollution more, including fossil fuels, and to tax labour less."
Addressing European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, who had taken the podium before him, Sarkozy urged
"I suggest to you that in the next six months, the European Union discuss the implications of this unfair competition," he said.
Guest of honour at the ceremony, the Nobel-winning former
"Today you become known as a great friend of the people of this planet," said Gore, 59, who won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to raise awareness about climate change. The Kenyan green advocate Wangari Maathai, Nobel winner in 2004, was also present.
Sarkozy endorsed a raft of measures to slash
"Your ideas, I make them my own. I will support them and I will carry them out," Sarkozy told participants.
Pledges ranged from a freeze on the building of new highways and airports, to a vast plan to shift freight traffic from road to rail, to a commitment to try to slash pesticide use by half within 10 years in
Tramway and TGV high-speed train networks are to be extended, and drivers coaxed into buying cleaner cars through bonuses and penalties.
Sarkozy promised a nationwide push to improve the energy efficiency of all new and existing buildings.
Asked to rule on the divisive issue of a carbon tax, Sarkozy pledged to study the creation of a "climate-energy tax", "in exchange for an alleviation of labour taxes", but was careful to reassure French business leaders there would be no increase in overall taxation.
Environmentalists suggest such a tax, calculated from the greenhouse gases emitted to produce and market goods, would be "painless" for consumers and business, starting at a few cents per litre of fuel.
On another explosive issue, genetically-modified (GMO) crops, Sarkozy ruled in favour of a temporary freeze on commercial GMO crops -- a minute share of the total in
Arnaud Gossement, spokesman for France Nature Environment, an umbrella group of 3,000 associations, also reacted positively.
"For the first time, we have a president who does not pit economy, growth and ecology against each other... even though he was elected on a pro-growth platform," he said.
Laurence Parisot, the head of the French employers federation, MEDEF, said Sarkozy's speech was "well balanced" but that it was too soon to judge the impact on business.