BORDEAUX: The past few weeks, a large percentage of French citizens have been protesting and taking their anger to the streets to express opposition against the national government’s decision in increasing the so-called “carbon tax.”
This decision was slated to take effect at the start of 2019; however, the violent opposition of demonstrators has caused the government to call it off outright. Scuttling the decision wasn’t enough reason for protestors to stop what in effect have become riots as they have vowed to fight on against a variety of French policies including those on transportation and school applications.
The question that remains unanswered is what is the impact of these events on the global governance of climate change?
The fuel tax is one of the measures used to cut down greenhouse gas emissions released from the burning of fossil fuels trapping the heat in the atmosphere and causing the global temperature to rise. The increase of carbon pricing has the main objective of reducing the unfavorable levels of CO2 emissions and limiting its negative impacts on the environment and human health.
The tax is a form of financial (dis)incentive for citizens to reduce their reliance on motor vehicles and consider the use of alternative means of transport such as electric vehicles, public transit or bicycles. It is also supposed to encourage businesses relying on fossil fuels to rethink their business models and consider the use of cheaper and sustainable alternative resources of energy.
Environmentalists believe that this tax is a small price to pay to ensure a healthy environment. Being proactive and taking preventative measures is believed to be less costly than later on dealing with the serious economic and social consequences of climate change.
Climate Action has always been on top of President Emmanuel Macron’s agenda. The French president, in his speech during the launch of the ‘Global Pact for the Environment’ in September 2017, highlighted that over several decades, protecting the environment has been a battle for the United Nations and all of its agencies. Today, he is facing this battle himself.
His decision to propose an increase to the carbon tax -- which was initially to ensure the country’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent -- has faced large-scale opposition from the general public.
One supporter of the yellow-vest moment who preferred to remain anonymous, states that if the government is keen on reducing emissions and protecting the environment it should consider taxing the fuel used by the airplanes instead of increasing the taxes on people who need their cars to go to work. Another protestor believes that it is not the responsibility of French citizens to address a global issue.
Climate Change is indeed a global problem, and all countries are expected to be dealing with its consequences. In October this year, the Intergovernmental panel on climate change released a special report highlighting the urgency of keeping the global temperature below 1.5 °C above the temperature of pre-industrial levels. Therefore, more countries are expected to take action and reduce their emissions.
However, there is a warranted concern by other nations that what is happening today in France might make decision-makers think twice before implementing similar initiatives to mitigate climate change and cut down emissions.
On December 4, President Trump tweeted “I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protestors in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago”. The American President in this tweet is referring to his withdrawal from the Paris agreement as he believed that this accord will weaken the U.S economy and put the country at disadvantage.
Environmentalists believe that what is happening today in France shouldn’t discourage addressing climate change and taking respective measures. They argue that in order to ensure improved governance of climate change and to increase the acceptance of similar measures, the involvement of various stakeholders in decision making is crucial.
Hierarchal top-down governance is more than likely to face opposition. Critics noted that addressing climate change shouldn’t be imposed; citizens need to understand the relevance and the importance of taking these measures.
As continued reports of accelerating climate change note, the global danger faced sooner rather than later – including from violent weather changes, flood inundations of coastal cities, flash wildfires and widespread drought – the problem has become imminent.
The solutions, however, seem to be increasingly out of governmental and environmentalist reach against populist’s opposition.
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