Wednesday, December 5, 2018

GWPF Newsletter: Macron’s Carbon Tax Collides With France’s Forgotten

'Yellow Vests' Call For Moratorium On Carbon Tax Hike

In this newsletter:

1) Yellow Vests Call For Moratorium On Macron’s Carbon Tax Rise
France24, 3 December 2018
2) Riots In Paris: French Unions Call On Macron To Halt Carbon Tax Hike
AFP, 1 December 2018 
3) France’s Macron Learns The Hard Way: Carbon Taxes Carry Political Risks
Reuters, 3 December 2018
4) Will The Transition Écologique Be Macron’s Waterloo?
CapX, 3 December 2018
5) Emmanuel Macron’s Carbon Tax Collides With France’s Forgotten
The Global and Mail, 29 November 2018
6) In Praise Of The Gilets Jaunes
The Spectator, 3 December 2018 

Full details:

1) Yellow Vests Call For Moratorium On Macron’s Carbon Tax 
France24, 3 December 2018

Édouard Philippe today received the leaders of France's major political parties to try to find a way out of the 'Yellow Vests' crisis. At the same time, the first criminal convictions of rioters will be handed down.

The French government waited two weeks after the start of the Yellow Vests movement and one day after violent clashes in Paris, to launch a great political consulation on Monday, listening to the demands of this movement of popular anger. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is trying to find a solution to this crisis, the most serious of the Macron era.

Canceling his visit to the UN climate conference COP24 in Krakow (Poland), Prime Minister Edouard Philippe received the leaders of the main French political parties. A first step during a busy week will also see him open the doors to representatives of the "Yellow Vests".

The Prime Minister's office announced Monday morning that Edouard Philippe will unveil new "measures" after the consultations, to "allow the smooth running" of a three-month consultation period sought by the government. A debate will also take place in the National Assembly Wednesday and in the Senate Thursday. The Government did not specify immediately whether this debate would give rise to a vote or not.

On leaving his discussion with the Prime Minister, the first secretary of the Socialist Party (SP) Olivier Faure said that the SP would join the motion of censure proposed by the Communist deputies: "If by tonight, the executive does no provide an acceptable solution, we will join a motion of censure against the government". The Socialist Party calls for the restoration of the Solidarity Tax on Wealth (ISF) and "Etats Généraux" on taxation.

For their part, representatives of the Republican Party demanded a national referendum. On their way out of a meeting with Edouard Philippe, Laurent Wauquiez criticised a government that is "not up to the task".

What political answer?

The largely disorganised protest of the "Yellow Vests", born from the opposition to higher carbon tax on fuel, is the most serious setback for Emmanuel Macron.

Most of his opponents demand a moratorium on the increase carbon tax scheduled for 1 January. One of the Yellow Vests speakers, Jacline Mouraud, make a moratorium a prerequisite for any discussions with the government.

Will there be a fourth week of demonstration next Saturday in Paris? Calls to this effect are already circulating on social networks. "We will see what the government will come up with," said Gerard Larcher, the president of the Senate (Republican Party) who will meet the head of state tomorrow, severely criticised the management of law enforcement.

2) Riots In Paris: French Unions Call On Macron To Halt Carbon Tax Hike
AFP, 1 December 2018 

Violent clashes seen again in Paris as demonstrators vent anger about fuel taxes and cost of living. Trade union leaders have called for a moratorium on a new fuel tax hike set for January.

PARIS – Groups of masked protesters battled police through clouds of tear gas near Paris’ Champs Elysees on Saturday as thousands took part in a third weekend of “yellow vest” demonstrations, which have morphed from anger over fuel taxes into a broader anti-government movement.

The violence broke out early after crowds began gathering at the Arc de Triomphe, where they found the Champs Elysees under lockdown by police manning barricades and water cannons.

While several dozen protesters were allowed to pass after an ID check and search, many others, often wearing gas masks or ski goggles, remained behind and fought with police, who responded with rounds of tear gas.

Demonstrators, some wielding slingshots, threw rocks, construction barricades and even paint at police in protective gear and helmets, with some officers seen spattered with yellow liquid.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, visiting the Paris police’s command center, said at least 107 people were arrested in Paris among the estimated 5,500 protesters. Some 8,000 were counted in the city last Saturday. […]

Attempts by the government to negotiate with the grass-roots movement have failed, in large part because representatives have insisted on public talks broadcast on TV.

“We want our dignity back and we want to be able to live from our work, which is absolutely not the case today,” Jason Herbert said after walking out of talks with the prime minister on Friday.

Macron has sought to douse the anger by promising three months of nationwide talks on how best to transform France into a low-carbon economy without penalizing the poor.

He also vowed to slow the rate of increase in fuel taxes if international oil prices rise too rapidly but only after a tax hike due in January.

But many protesters were unconvinced by Macron’s speech last Tuesday.

“What we need is something tangible, not just smoke and mirrors,” said Yoann Allard, a 30-year-old farmhand.

Trade union leaders, who met Friday with Philippe, have called for a moratorium on a new fuel tax hike set for January, a suggestion which some pro-Macron members of the National Assembly have started to endorse.

Full story

3) France’s Macron Learns The Hard Way: Carbon Taxes Carry Political Risks
Reuters, 3 December 2018

PARIS (Reuters) – When Emmanuel Macron rose to power, he put the environment at the heart of his agenda. Eighteen months later, anger over those policies has stoked protests that are a huge challenge for the French president. What was once widely seen by governments as a win-win transition to cleaner energies now looks more like causing short-term costs with huge social disruption.

FILE PHOTO: Protesters wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher diesel taxes, stand up in front of a police water canon at the Place de l’Etoile near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, December 1, 2018. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

Rioters torched cars and buildings in central Paris on Saturday following two weeks of protests caused partly by higher fuel taxes which Macron says are needed to fight climate change. Some protesters called for him to resign.

Macron’s plight illustrates a conundrum: How do political leaders’ introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election?

It is a question facing leaders across the world as delegates hold talks in the Polish city of Katowice this week to try to produce a “rule book” to flesh out details of the 2015 Paris Agreement on fighting climate change.

“Clearly, countries where inequalities are the highest are the ones where these kinds of push-backs are mostly likely,” Francois Gemenne, a specialist in environmental geopolitics at SciencesPo university in Paris, said of the political risks.

Naming Italy, the United States and Britain as countries where environmental moves could risk a voter backlash, he said: “I guess it’s one of the reasons why populist leaders tend to be very skeptical about climate change and environmental measures.”

The protests in France have inspired a similar movement in neighboring Belgium, where protesters took to the streets on Friday.

There have also been small-scale protests in Canada over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to impose a federal carbon tax on provinces unwilling to combat climate change.

What was once widely seen by governments as a win-win transition to cleaner energies now looks more like causing short-term costs with huge social disruption, followed by possible long-run gains.

Another challenge facing leaders is over how they use the proceeds from policies intended to help the environment: Should money raised from carbon taxes be used directly to combat climate change, or to plug holes in national accounts?


Macron said after the latest protests in Paris that he would convene ministers to discuss the crisis on his return from a G20 summit in Argentina. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe canceled plans to go to Katowice for the climate change summit.

Macron introduced new carbon taxes to urge motorists to change behavior and protect the environment.

Macron has watered down some of his campaign pledges on the environment since he took office, and his popular environment minister quit in August over the sluggishness of progress. But he has shown little willingness to compromise in the face of the protests.

The fuel tax is accompanied by other measures including incentives to encourage people to buy electric vehicles.

Unveiling a medium-term energy plan for France last week, he held out an olive branch by saying he would review fuel prices each quarter, but said the carbon taxes would stay.

His goal is for France to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and boost the use of cleaner energies at the same time. Emissions are currently rising and 75 percent of energy use in France originates from fossil fuels.

“When we talk about the actions of the nation in response to the challenges of climate change, we have to say that we have done little,” he said.

Macron has also said he will fight to try to save the Paris climate agreement, which aims to keep global temperature rises to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius, a critical threshold.

Scientists are increasingly concerned that countries are falling short on their targets and must be more ambitious. Yet citizens are worried about their immediate lives.


In Canada, addressing the question of how governments use the money raised from carbon taxes, Trudeau’s government has promised to return the money collected from the provinces directly to taxpayers.

But in France most of the revenue generated will be used to tackle the national budget deficit, increasing anger at Macron, who left-wing opponents call the “president of the rich”.

Full story

4) Will The Transition Écologique Be Macron’s Waterloo?
CapX, 3 December 2018

Rupert Darwall

Les gilets jaunes triompheront,” was the message on the Arc de Triomphe that greeted President Macron on his return from the pointless Buenos Aires G20 summit. 

Predictably, his 57-minute address last Tuesday on France’s transition écologique did nothing to quell popular unrest and suggests the French president’s troubles are only going to worsen. In condemning the violence of the gilets jaunes protesters while assuring voters that he heard their concerns about squeezed living standards, Macron did what every politician does. Some of it was tin-eared. Diesel too expensive? There’s public transport and car sharing, was Macron’s Marie-Antoinette response.

But the French president’s problems are more than merely tonal. Claiming he was listening, he showed he hadn’t understood. Macron pledged not to be deflected from his goal of completely decarbonising energy consumption in France by 2050. Conceptually he tried to bind together social and environmental inequalities. It doesn’t wash. Breathing bad air is not caused by 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide.

Political leaders who set themselves big goals succeed when those goals are congruent and mutually supportive. Ronald Reagan’s goal of reviving America’s economy strengthened his other goal of winning the Cold War. Like Reagan, Macron wants to transform France’s economic performance, raise living standards and close its chronic fiscal deficit.

At the same time, he is pushing the transition écologique and the transition énergétique — the terms appear interchangeable. It is not just the hubris of, in his words, building an entirely new economic and social model for France. When a politician has goals that are fundamentally in conflict with each other, failure is assured.

Evidence of this conflict runs like counterpoint through Macron’s speech, deflating any cultural assumption that Anglo-Saxons like to muddle through whereas the technocratic products of France’s École Nationale d’Administration prize logical consistency above all. At one point, the president of France complains that the French complain that taxes are too high while demanding more schools, creches, and public services.

Fair point. This was a failure of pédagogie by the leaders of society, Macron told the assorted elected officials assembled to hear his lecture. But when it comes to the higher fuel taxes that sparked the gilets jaunes protests, all the proceeds – €5bn this year, €7-8bn next – are being used to subsidise wind and solar energy, which in turn means higher energy prices.
Higher taxes, higher electricity costs, worsened business competitiveness is Macron’s triple whammy for nil social benefit. It hardly constitutes a voter-friendly

Saying that France hadn’t done enough to address climate change, Macron declared that failure to act would add an environmental debt to the existing economic and social ones to be passed on to future generations. But addressing the environmental debt means increasing the economic one – resources are not costless – and deepening the social one. High energy costs disproportionately hit those on low incomes.

Inevitably this creates pressure for more welfare spending and still higher taxation. It’s a pretty safe bet that the rioters will be bought off with higher public spending in one form or another.

Policy contradictions run like deep fissures through the detail of Macron’s energy transition. The president reaffirmed plans to arbitrarily cut nuclear’s contribution to France’s generating mix by one third and make way for a vast expansion of renewable energy, tripling wind capacity and solar fivefold. As Macron says, thanks to nuclear, France has some of the lowest cost electricity in Europe. Its nuclear power stations transmit high value, low cost electricity to France’s neighbours, constituting one of France’s largest net exports, at one point contributing €3bn a year to the French economy.

When it was launched 40 years ago, the French civil nuclear programme represented more than economics. Nuclear power was a grand statement about the future; of France’s independence from OPEC oil shocks and what French technology and the French state could achieve. Begun in the closing months of Georges Pompidou’s presidency, it was enthusiastically adopted by his successor, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, who saw it presaging a new era of civilization. “With the appearance of nuclear energy, with the development of biochemistry and connected branches, with computer sciences, we are achieving a scientific power of another nature,” Giscard told Paris Match in a 1979 interview.

What hadn’t been foreseen was that France’s nuclear programme would give it a huge advantage in the age of global warming. Nuclear is already zero greenhouse gas emitting. With the sunk costs of existing nuclear power stations, you cannot do better. Anything that moves away from that is likely to see emissions increase, as is happening in Germany.

Macron describes the rise of wind and solar as “ineluctable” and at the heart of his government’s programme. One thing it won’t do is make the planet great again. None of the near 9,000 words of Macron’s speech explain or justify why it makes any commercial, economic or environmental sense to raise taxes to subsidise renewable energy. Instead it smacks of craven appeasement of a destructive green ideology that has always been hostile to nuclear, especially the variety emanating from its larger neighbour across the Rhine.

Full post

5) Emmanuel Macron’s Carbon Tax Collides With France’s Forgotten
The Global and Mail, 29 November 2018

Konrad Yakabuski

In September, just a few days after French President Emmanuel Macron’s environment minister resigned to protest the watering down of his policies, actress Juliette Binoche tapped 200 like-minded artists to sign a manifesto calling for “firm and immediate” action on climate change.

“We are living through a planetary cataclysm,” said Ms. Binoche, in a missive published in Le Monde alongside the likes of director Pedro Almodovar, actor Jude Law and writer Michael Ondaatje. “We thus consider that any political action that does not make fighting this cataclysm its concrete, declared and assumed priority will no longer be credible. We consider that a government that does not make saving what can still be saved its first objective will no longer be taken seriously … It is a question of survival. It cannot, by consequence, be considered secondary.”

Ms. Binoche and former environment minister Nicolas Hulot, who was France’s equivalent of David Suzuki before joining Mr. Macron’s cabinet last year, were back at it last week as star panelists on the main political talk show on France 2, the public broadcaster. “We’re out of time,” insisted Mr. Hulot, who is being urged by his fans to run for president in 2022. “Thirty years ago, we said we had 30 years to act. The latest report of the [United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] says we’ve only got two and a half years left.”

Even if you dispute Mr. Hulot’s timeline – the IPCC recently said global carbon emissions would need to fall by 45 per cent below 2010 levels by 2030 to prevent planetary warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius – there is little scientific doubt about our current trajectory. Very few countries are on track to meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets under the 2015 Paris climate accord.

And yet, Mr. Macron gives the impression of trying hard. It was the French President, after all, who vowed to “make the planet great again” after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull out of the Paris accord. Mr. Macron has pledged to spend more than €70-billion ($110-billion) on renewable energy subsidies by 2028. And, starting on Jan. 1, his government is set to implement a carbon tax that will increase the per-litre price of diesel fuel used by most French motorists by 26 centimes (39 cents) by 2022.

That latter plan has been thrown into limbo, however, by the massive protests of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) – so-named for the security vest every French driver must by law keep in his or her glove compartment – that have destabilized Mr. Macron’s government in recent weeks. While the hyperactive French President expected to endure opposition to his labour reforms and overhaul of the state-owned railway – opposition he successfully neutralized – the revolt against his carbon tax caught Mr. Macron and the Paris-based media completely off-guard. And yet, this uprising by a feeling-forgotten French periphery against an elite epitomized by Ms. Binoche and company should have been entirely predictable.

The gilets jaunes are rising up against what they see as an attack on their already difficult lifestyles. It’s easy for well-off elites to call for radical action to halt climate change, since such measures demand little of them. But for those who toil in factories that spew greenhouse gases and need their more cheaply priced diesel cars to get to work, Mr. Macron’s carbon taxes are a provocation.

The message of the elites, as internalized by the gilets jaunes, is that they are engaged in immoral behaviours simply by virtue of their dependence on industrial jobs and their cars. The gilets jaunes argue they’re just trying to make an honest living.

On Wednesday, Mr. Macron aimed to strike a compromise between the elites worried about “the end of the world” and the gilets jaunes just worried about “the end of the month.” While he stood firm on the first instalment of the fuel-tax increase set to take effect in 2019, he promised the carbon-tax increase in the following three years will be adjusted to take into account the market price of diesel gasoline. The compromise has failed to satisfy anyone.

There are parallels between what is happening in France and almost every other developed country, including Canada, as comfortable urban elites seek to impose their climate change agenda on a broader population just struggling to pay its bills and earn an honest buck. No amount of hand-wringing over the fate of the planet, be it by the IPCC or by the likes of Ms. Binoche, is going to resonate with people who do not feel the elites have their interests at heart.

6) In Praise Of The Gilets Jaunes
The Spectator, 3 December 2018 

Brendan O’Neill

At last, a people’s revolt against the tyranny of environmentalism. Paris is burning. Not since 1968 has there been such heat and fury in the streets. Thousands of ‘gilets jaunes’ stormed the capital at the weekend to rage against Emmanuel Macron and his treatment of them with aloof, technocratic disdain.

And yet leftists in Britain and the US have been largely silent, or at least antsy, about this people’s revolt. The same people who got so excited about the staid, static Occupy movement a few years ago — which couldn’t even been arsed to march, never mind riot — seem struck dumb by the sight of tens of thousands of French people taking to the barricades against Macronism.

It isn’t hard to see why. It’s because this revolt is as much against their political orthodoxies as it is against Macron’s out-of-touch and monarchical style. Most strikingly this is a people’s rebellion against the onerous consequences of climate-change policy, against the politics of environmentalism and its tendency to punish the little people for daring to live relatively modern, fossil-fuelled lives. This is new. This is unprecedented. We are witnessing perhaps the first mass uprising against eco-elitism and we should welcome it with open arms to the broader populist revolt that has been sweeping Europe for a few years now.

The ‘gilet jaunes’ — or yellow-vests, after the hi-vis vests they wear — are in rebellion against Macron’s hikes in fuel tax. As part of his and the EU’s commitment to cutting carbon emissions, Macron is punishing the drivers of diesel vehicles in particular, raising the tax by 7.6 cents for every litre of diesel fuel. This will badly hit the pockets of those in rural France, who need to drive, and who can’t just hop on buses as deluded Macronists living in one of the fancy arrondissements of Paris have suggested they should.

These people on the periphery of French society — truck drivers, provincial plumbers, builders, deliverymen, teachers, parents — have rocked up to the centre of French society in their tens of thousands three times in recent weeks, their message the same every time: ‘Enough is enough. Stop making our lives harder.’

It is a perfect snapshot of the most important divide in 21st-century Europe: that between a blinkered elite and ordinary people who’ve had as much bossing about, tax rises, paternalism and disdain as they can take. So from his presidential palace in Paris, Macron decrees that the little people of the nation must pay a kind of penance for the eco-crime of driving diesel-fuelled cars, like a modern-day Marie Antoinette deciding with a wave of the hand what is good for the plebs. It’s little wonder that the graffiti left behind following the latest uprising in Paris at the weekend compared Macron to Louis XVI and demanded that he resign.

This leaderless, diverse revolt, packed with all sorts of people, including both leftists and right-wingers, is important for many reasons. First because it beautifully, fatally shatters the delusional faith that certain Europhiles and piners for the maintenance of the status quo have placed in Macron since his election in May 2017.

Remember how they said he would hold back the populist tsunami and save the EU from the pesky public’s anger? The Economist even published an image of him walking on water, the nutters. Now we know that, far from defeating the populist thirst for change, Macron has inflamed it. His aristocratic attitude, his preference for rubbing shoulders with the likes of Barnier and Merkel over your average French citizen, his pursuit of eco-signalling government policies with not a single thought for the impact they might have on ordinary people, have intensified the populist moment. Macron will go down in history not as the president who switched off public fury but who intensified it.

And the second reason this revolt is important is because it suggests that no modern orthodoxy is safe from the populist fightback. Not even the environmentalist one.

For years we have lived in a climate of ‘You can’t say that’. You can’t criticise mass immigration — that’s xenophobia. You can’t oppose the EU — that’s Europhobia. You can’t raise concerns about radical Islam — that’s Islamophobia. You can’t agitate against climate-change policy — that’s climate-change denialism, on a par with Holocaust denialism, and anyone who dares to bristle against eco-orthodoxy deserves to be cast out of polite society. And yet now, in this populist moment, people are daring to say precisely these unsayable things. They’re standing up to the EU. They’re demanding that immigration become a democratic concern rather than something worked out for us by unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels. And now they’re even grating against the hitherto unquestionable religious-style diktat that we must all drive less, shop less and do less in order to ‘save the planet’.

Of course the gilet-jaunes revolt isn’t just about fuel tax. It expresses a broader sense of public anger with the new political class and their cult of bureaucracy, their preference for technocracy over democracy, their gaping, astonishing distance from the concerns and beliefs of ordinary people. In essence, the people’s revolt against Macronism speaks to a profound crisis of legitimacy among the 21st-century political class and a willingness within the public to kick up a fuss about things they might previously have been silent about.

But it is not an accident that climate-change policies were, in the French case, the spark that lit the populist flame. Because environmentalism has always been a central feature of the new elitism, a means through which a self-styled virtuous political class could demonstrate its eco-awareness by shaming and punishing those who drive cars to work, or work in polluting industries, or fail to recycle their rubbish.

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The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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