Guest essay by Eric Worrall
NGOS including Oxfam and Greenpeace are furious at President Macron’s frantic retreat from yellow vest protests against higher fuel taxes.
1.7 million people have signed a petition in favor of suing France over climate-change inaction
By Annabelle Timsit in Paris
December 27, 2018
More than 1.7 million people have signed a petition in favor of suing the French government, accusing it of inaction on climate change.
Four NGOs—Oxfam, Greenpeace, Notre Affaire à Tous, and Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme—have initiated legal proceedings saying France has defaulted on its environmental obligations. The initial Dec.18 filing gives the government two months to formulate a response, after which the organizations can choose to move forward with their lawsuit (link in French) in administrative court.
Recently, Macron’s government tried to implement an increased carbon tax to limit fossil fuels used in cars. But the resulting backlash from a group of populist protesters known as “yellow vests” has led to billions of euros in damages, hundreds of arrests, and the deaths of at least four people (link in French).
Some within the government have said these kinds of demonstrations discourage political action on climate change. But Toussaint believes the movement for climate justice and the yellow vests’ demands are not mutually exclusive. “What they [yellow vests] want first and foremost is social justice and financial justice,” she told Quartz. “And there will be no social justice without action for the climate. Global warming feeds on inequalities and strengthens them. It strikes the most fragile first. It is destroying our economy and our territories. So, it can be a process that can be done in parallel.” She argues the carbon tax should be balanced out with social subsidies financed through a tax hike on large corporate greenhouse gas emitters.
Personally I think the NGOs are being optimistic in assuming the yellow vests would have accepted a subsidy for carbon tax deal.
Carbon tax advocates seem to assume fossil fuel demand is elastic – higher taxes reduce demand, by encouraging people to choose less carbon intensive alternatives to personal road transport. But many of the yellow vest protestors are farmers and rural workers, they live in regions with poor public transport. Many of them have to transport large payloads of rural supplies to or from their farms.
The livelihoods of rural yellow vest protestors are utterly dependent on their inelastic access to affordable diesel. Our access to affordable food is utterly dependent on keeping costs down for rural workers.
Update (EW): Breitbart reports the European Union is also piling pressure on France, with a statement that Macron has “lost authority” after offering concessions to protesters.