Sarkozy pledges 'green revolution' for France
Concluding a four-month stakeholder forum in Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced a raft of new measures, including a freeze on the construction of new roads and airports as well as a moratorium on new GMOs.
Sarkozy's vision for an "ecological New Deal" and a "green revolution" in France was presented at the Elysée Palace on 25 October in the presence of Commission President José Manuel Barroso and climate activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore.
His pledge came in conclusion to the work of a broad stakeholder forum, involving trade unions, employers' associations, local authorities, farmers, and environmental NGOs, which started work in July.
"As head of state, your proposals, I make them mine," Sarkozy told forum representatives, pledging that he "will implement" their proposals. The French president added that the forum was "not the end but the beginning" of a process that will be followed up by concrete proposals to be formulated at a later stage by forum working groups.
Among the measures Sarkozy announced on 25 October are those that got large support in the forum's conclusions. They include:
- Freezing the construction of new roads - except for city bypasses - and airports and extending the high-speed TGV rail network;
- A bonus and penalty system for cars based on pollution levels;
- A plan to increase energy-efficiency in both existing and new buildings, including a ban on incandescent light bulbs by 2010;
- A €1bn plan for the development of low-carbon energy over the next four years (Sarkozy pledged that, for each euro spent on nuclear research, one euro will be spent on other, clean technologies);
- A plan to cut waste by focusing on prevention including proposals to "ban or tax unnecessary waste" (such as over-packaging) and proposals to turn to incineration only "as a last resort";
- Halving pesticide use over the next ten years; and;
- A moratorium on the approval of new Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) until a new expert group, to be set up in the coming weeks, issues conclusions.
Sarkozy also reiterated earlier calls for an EU levy on goods imported from countries which have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. However, such a proposal is unlikely to find the required unanimous support among the 27 member states.
But, he did however say France will consider shifting its high tax burden away from labour to the environment with the possible introduction of a carbon tax. Similar moves over taxation are currently being examined at EU level but have so far remained blocked due to the unanimity rule over taxation (EurActiv 23/07/07)