• French experience ‘green revolution’

    The French president Nicolas Sarkozy has announced what he calls ‘the second French revolution’ – but the environmental community is studying it to see if it is as revolutionary as he is suggesting.


    In July, Sarkozy held a two-day ‘Grenelle de l’Environnement’ (environ-mental symposium) involving trade unions, employers’ associations, local authorities, farmers and NGOs. That started a four-month negotiation process, which ended with his first major speech on the environment last month.

    The main message was support for introducing a carbon tax – he called it a ‘climate and energy contribution’ – in return for cuts to social charges in order to boost employment. He also supported an idea by his predecessor Jacques Chirac for the EU to have an import tax for goods from countries that have not signed the Kyoto protocol.

    On transport, he announced a stop to construction of new motorways (except city by-passes) and airport expansion schemes, more railway lines for both long-distance and local rail, a boost for railfreight, and a goal of having the average car on French roads emit no more than 130 g/km of carbon dioxide by 2021.

    Environmental organisations generally gave a cautious welcome to Sarkozy’s speech, though there is concern that many of his promises could be undermined by ‘small print’ guarantees that would allow a large number of exceptions.

    With much of its electricity coming from nuclear power, France is well on target to meet its Kyoto target, but rising emissions from road transport have become a concern in recent years.


    The British government last month published proposals for the world’s first Climate Change law.

    The proposed legislation sets legally binding targets for cuts in carbon emissions based on five-year ‘carbon budgets’ set 15 years ahead. But environmental groups said the targets were not strict enough, and announcements that Britain will continue with airport expansion, road building and road widening further undermined the law’s credibility.

    This news story is taken from the November 2007 edition of T&E Bulletin.