French President Emmanuel Macron argued that green taxes were needed to curb climate change by weaning motorists off petroleum products. However his latest increase in carbon taxes to reduce CO2 emissions proved a directive too far. It led to riots by gilets jaunes or ‘yellow vests’.
Their protests forced Macron to back down. He suspended fuel increases for six months. After more riots he cancelled any increase and froze electricity and gas prices. He also was forced to promise wage rises, tax cuts and to abolish taxes on overtime pay in an attempt to quell the four weeks of violent protests that have shaken France.
Delegates at UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, were shocked that Macron, leader of one of Europe’s most climate-ambitious countries, had capitulated so easily.
The truth is that France’s protesters are only part of a global backlash against climate-change taxes. Politicians worldwide are running into fierce opposition underlining the unpopularity of the mega-expensive decarbonisation effort.
Despite all their efforts, the International Energy Agency forecasts that CO2 emissions will rise in 2018 for the first time in five years. Gunnar Luderer, one of the authors of a new UN ‘emissions gap’ report and senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, is typically anxious (and alarmist): ‘There is still a tremendous gap . . . between the targets agreed by governments and the measures to achieve these goals’. He insists that ’emissions must be reduced by a quarter by 2030 [to keep warming to no more than 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels]’ and for 1.5C emissions to be halved’.
So it seems that the more governments try to control climate change, the wider the gap becomes between aspiration and reality; and that 24 years of climate meetings have been little more than a waste of time and money.