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DAILY BRIEFING France suspends fuel tax after weeks of unrest
France suspends fuel tax after weeks of unrest


France suspends fuel tax after weeks of unrest

The French prime minister Édouard Philippe announced yesterday that the government has suspended a “carbon tax plan that triggered weeks of often violent protests nationwide”, the Washington Post reports. “No tax is worth putting in danger the unity of the nation,” Philippe said, as he revealed that the tax would be put on hold for six months. Philippe had been expected to attend attend COP24 in Poland, EurActiv notes, but cancelled his trip to deal with what the Washington Post describes as a “full-blown crisis”. The proposed fuel tax hikes – which were due to take effect in January – “were designed to wean consumers off diesel and other polluting fuels and to favour electric cars”, the Washington Post explains. However, some politicians and commentators have questioned the framing of the tax as an ecological initiative, Climate Home News says, including the former environment minister Ségolène Royal. “The government has explained that they were taxing taxes for ecological reasons…This is a lie. This would make sense if people could pollute less by changing their car”, Royal told Radio Classique. The news of France’s “sudden U-turn” sent “shivers through the COP24 climate summit”, Politico writes, because “the sight of one of Europe’s most climate ambitious countries beating a hasty retreat over a proposal that would have hiked gasoline tax by 4 cents, or just under 3%, highlighted the difficulty of imposing any economic pain in the name of tackling climate change”. In a similar vein, the Guardian writes that Macron’s defeat “is likely to come as a painful lesson for environmental policymakers at this week’s UN climate talks in Katowice”. Meanwhile, the Hill reports that US president Donald Trump has cited the riots in France as justification for his decision to exit the US from the Paris climate deal, which he described as “fatally flawed”. The Evening Standard and Politico also cover the news, among others.

Washington Post Read Article
Climate talks shift to nitty-gritty details of Paris accord

Negotiators at the latest round of UN climate talks in Poland began finalising the rules for the Paris Agreement yesterday, Associated Press reports, the deal made by countries in 2015 to curb climate change. “Over the next two weeks, the aim is to make an end-of-year deadline for agreeing a rule book on how to enforce global action to limit further warming of the planet”, Reuters says. However, a draft of the rulebook going into the conference was “a mess of unresolved options”, Climate Home News explains. A new version – which began being released in segments overnight – “will be the first real test of countries’ willingness to compromise”. Reuters adds that concerns are mounting that “any outcome from the two weeks of talks will lack ambition because of repeated Polish statements that it plans to build more coalmines”. The day also saw major finance institutions pledge to drive more cash towards green projects, BusinessGreen reports. A group of banks including ING and BNP Parabis promised to start measuring the ‘climate alignment’ of their lending portfolios and over the long term steer them into line with a 2C trajectory. Axios reports that officials from the Trump administration are expected to speak at a “pro-coal event” during the talks. The Guardian reports on the solo climate protest of Swedish school student Greta Thunberg, who has accused leaders at the UN climate change summit of “behaving like irresponsible children”. DeSmogBlogalso covers the talks.

Elsewhere, the Financial Times has a podcast discussing how the investment needed to put the Paris pledges into action will be raised, while a feature in the New York Times examines “three key questions” about the talks. The piece notes that: “The rule book is expected to provoke fierce debate. Some developing countries have argued that they should be given much more leeway in how they report and track their progress…Money is another perennial sticking point.” Meanwhile Claire Perry, the UK minister for clean energy and growth, has written a comment piece in Climate Home that leads with: “Britain backs strong rules to bring the Paris Agreement to life”.

Associated Press via the Washington Post Read Article
EPA to roll back a restriction on new coal-burning plants

The US Environmental Protection Agency is poised to lift a “significant climate change regulation” on new coal-fired power plants, the New York Times reports. The proposal – which is expected to be announced on Thursday – will remove Obama-era restrictions on new coal power plants, that effectively requires them to capture the CO2 emissions they produce. This technology “is still not in use on a commercial scale”, the paper notes. AxiosBloomberg and Reuters also carry the story.

In related news, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has suggested that it is time to remove coal from the energy mix. “One thing that shouldn’t be part of the mix at all now is coal,” Bloomberg told the New York Times, a remark that the paper says is “reminiscent of a comment that came to haunt Hillary Clinton in 2016”.

New York Times Read Article
Spain unveils ambitious green energy plan

Madrid is seeking to “reverse years of rising emissions”, with an “ambitious” new plan to generate 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2050, the Financial Times reports. The proposal, which is set to be adopted by Spain’s cabinet in the coming weeks, also aims to cut emissions by more than 90% over the same period. Teresa Ribera, minister for the ecological transition, commented on the threat climate change poses to Spain: “When we think of the wildfires in California and the wildfires in Portugal, we realise this is exactly what was predicted by climate scientists — and exactly what was predicted by climate scientists for Spain…This is terrifying for us.”

Financial Times Read Article


The burden of tackling climate change must be shared

“It is necessary to change the world’s energy structure dramatically. But much of the burden of the adjustment is set to hit the living standards of those who are already worst off”, argues economics writer Martin Sandbu. The “rage” of the rioting supporters of the gilet jaunes movement in France “was triggered by a rise in fuel taxes hard to bear for neglected rural areas that are more vulnerable to the higher cost of driving, yet with fewer alternatives than affluent cities”, Sandbu explains. He compares the issue with miners in Poland who are worried about their jobs, “which creates a drag on EU efforts to hasten the energy transition”. He notes that: “If entirely reasonable demands for a ‘just transition’ are not met, one may well have reasons to suspect the decision-making system of being biased against one…While we have long talked about the free-rider problem in environmental policy, we have missed the potentially much greater obstacle of political polarisation in the age of populism”.

Elsewhere, the Telegraph also ran an opinion piece on the fuel tax riots in France, leading with: “Preening Macron is learning to his cost that you can’t save the planet on the back of the poor”. An editorial in the New York Timesdescribes president Macron’s retreat on the tax as “a dangerous gamble”. The editorial suggests that “Macron and his government have to pay much closer heed to the France outside Paris and other big cities, and they need to make far greater efforts to explain their measures and to lower their burden on the many people struggling at the borderline of poverty”. Meanwhile an editorial in the Washington Post argues that the protests “could weaken one of Europe’s few internationalist leaders”, while a separate article in the same paper says that the protests “are part of a global backlash against climate-change taxes”.

Martin Sandbu, Financial Times Read Article
‘A kind of dark realism’: Why the climate change problem is starting to look too big to solve

“In the daunting math of climate action, individual choices and government policies aren’t adding up”, writes journalist Steven Mufson, in an in-depth feature for the Washington Post. “Even if the world did an unlikely series of about-faces — halting deforestation, going vegetarian, paying $50 a ton carbon taxes, boosting energy efficiency, doubling car mileage, and more — it would not be enough [to prevent disruptive climate change].” Mufson continues: “It’s not that corporations and governments haven’t attacked the problem or made breathtaking advances in energy technology…But effective policy is lacking.” The feature includes the views of a number of experts on what this “effective policy” could be, including the Nobel Prize-winning economist William Nordhaus, who “advocates a whopping carbon tax”. Nordhaus suggests to Mufson that limiting global temperature rise to 2C would require global carbon dioxide prices of about $250 a ton in 2020, and rising rapidly after that. Elsewhere, an article in the Guardian looks at the “success story” of a carbon tax in British Columbia, which gained popularity by returning the money to the public in tax cuts – a model that the piece says is supported by Nordhaus.

Steven Mufson, Washington Post Read Article


Economic effects of climate change in Alaska

Climate change could be costing Alaska around $340-700m a year – 0.6-1.3% of its gross domestic product (GDP). The largest economic effects are associated with costs to prevent damage, relocate, and replace infrastructure threatened by permafrost thaw, sea level rise, and coastal erosion, the research finds. “This significant, but relatively modest net economic effect for Alaska as a whole obscures large regional disparities, as rural communities face large projected costs while more southerly urban residents experience net gains,” the authors say.

Weather, Climate, and Society Read Article


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