Saturday, October 31, 2009
"Je [Pasqua] suis un animal de combat. On m'a cherché, on va me trouver. J'estime que dans cette affaire (Angolagate) la justice n'a pas bien fait son travail. C'est grâce à Arcadi Gaydamak (également condamné dans le dossier de l'Angolagate), qui est un ancien du KGB, que nous avons pu faire libérer nos deux pilotes détenus par les Serbes. Le président de la République Jacques Chirac et ses collaborateurs le savent bien. Je le démontrerai en appel", affirme-t-il.
"J'étais le PS, pas le leader", écrivez-vous. Cruel constat ! Au PS, la question du leadership a toujours été compliquée. Le leader apparaît comme provisoire, c'était déjà le cas sous Mitterrand. C'est sans doute lié à la méfiance intrinsèque des socialistes à l'égard de l'élection présidentielle. J'étais le premier secrétaire. Pas le candidat. Cette distinction, maintenant établie avec la primaire, est un affaiblissement du PS.
This strikes me as the supreme equivocation in the tissue of equivocations that is this interview with François Hollande in advance of his forthcoming book. Yes, the Socialists are suspicious of the presidency, but every political party is composed of ambitious people who would like to hold the top job. Rivals can be vanquished (or eliminated by events), as in Sarkozy's case, or conciliated, as in Hollande's. Hollande remained in his post for so long because he was a clever mediator whom potential rivals did not see as an insuperable threat to their own chances. Hollande's eventual candidacy probably loomed larger in his own mind than in theirs, so they made no effort to oust him, and he made no great effort to vanquish them. This is the meaning of his confession that he may have "sacrificed too much to unity." Indeed, he may have, but not because he truly valued unity; rather, because he thought that if he kept a lid on internal dissension, his mere longevity in the leadership post would make him the natural candidate, or the one who divided the party least. On that he was dead wrong.
Friday, October 30, 2009
To be sure, the Fifth Republic presidency has been steadily descending from its quasi-otherworldly status from the beginning. But this is a new step, and I think a healthy one, whatever the outcome of the trial. The monarchical aura is gone. Only the autocratic instincts remain.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Le dîner des chefs d'Etat de l'Union pour la Méditerranée, aménagements du Petit Palais compris, a bel et bien coûté "un total de 1 072 437 euros pour 200 personnes, soit 5 362 euros par invité". Par contre, les 245 000 euros incriminés n'ont pas servi à la seule douche destinée à Nicolas Sarkozy au Grand Palais, non plus qu'ils ont suffi à aménager l'ensemble du lieu comme l'a laissé entendre le ministre du budget Eric Woerth : ils ont servi à "une zone de rencontres", avec douches attenantes qu'il juge "absurdes". Selon M. Séguin, "l'essentiel c'est que la France a payé le fait qu'elle n'a plus de centre permanent de rencontres internationales" depuis la vente de l'immeuble Kléber, "dans le cadre d'une opération qui a été catastrophique".
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
"Le président Sarkozy a lancé une proposition de débat, le FN dit chiche", a-t-elle déclaré. "À sa proposition loyale, le FN attend une réponse loyale" a poursuivi Marine Le Pen, en affirmant que son parti avait été "le premier à porter la question identitaire dans le débat politique".
In Jersey English:
"Ya think ya can muscle in on my territory, tough guy? Fuhgeddaboutit!"
She also wants un "Grenelle de l'identité nationale", estimant que le débat ne pouvait avoir lieu que "dans un cadre solennel à l'échelon national." I suppose Sarko could always assign Frédéric Mitterrand to take the meeting with Marine.
We can expect an endless round of this posturing right up to the regional elections.
It seems that the decision on defense secrecy will fall to Hervé Morin. This is not among the president's powers.
René Dosière, qui a consulté le rapport, s'est penché plus spécialement sur cet aspect, en insistant sur "un dîner des chefs d'Etat pour un coût de 1.010.256 euros, soit 5.050 euros par personne", et "l'installation -pour 4 heures !- d'une douche à l'usage du président, pour un prix de 245.772 euros".
Pretty soon the UMP will start to resemble the PS.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Avec à peine deux ans et demi d'existence, Rue89 approche progressivement de l'équilibre économique. Celui-ci pourrait être ponctuellement atteint au quatrième trimestre 2009, mais pas encore en année pleine. Il faudra sans doute attendre encore trois ou quatre trimestres avant d'atteindre le point d'équilibre, clé de l'indépendance et de la pérennisation de l'entreprise.
That's good to know, even if the price of survival is selling T-shirts and coffee mugs:
Lancé un peu plus tôt, en mai 2007, Rue89 a développé un modèle économique mixte dans lequel la publicité sous toutes ses formes (bannières, mur, liens sponsorisés…) n'est pas la seule source de revenus, grâce aux activités de prestation de service (développement de sites pour d'autres clients), de formation continue, et de vente de T-shirts et de mugs.
I find this slightly sad, since I think Rue89 has a claim on being the best news source in France today. It's not as comprehensive as Le Monde, but on the subjects it treats it is consistently more interesting. I hope that a sustainable situation is not too far distant. Meanwhile, I encourage you to buy T-shirts and coffee mugs.
Googlez "google" sur Google Recherche dans www.google.fr : l'écran indique la présence du mot et de la chose dans "environ 2 090 000 000" documents. Si vous n'êtes pas inquiet du sacrilège, renouvelez l'opération en googlant "dieu" : "environ 33 000 000" de documents vous seront alors proposés.
What follows this sensational opening gambit is a thoughtful consideration of the consequences of a transition from one "material support" of culture to another. Worth a look.
I have been pondering this transition lately because the Harvard libraries now offer the possibility of "scan and deliver": if the reader chooses, nearly any of the millions of books that Harvard owns can be scanned overnight and delivered the next day in .pdf form. In some ways this is a great convenience, in others a great sadness. Sadness fades quickly, though, whereas convenience boosts productivity, and as we are constantly reminded, the world--even in the groves of academe--is an increasingly competitive place, so productivity counts.
I have yet to see details of this plan, but on its face it seems to offer an excellent example of what Sarkozy likes to call his "voluntarist" approach to government. "Subsidy" is a bad word, so by an act of will one eliminates it by redefinition: alleviating interest charges is somehow not a subsidy. If state money is laundered through banks, it's no longer a subsidy. If farms are "restructured," perhaps by offering farmers incentives to produce this rather than that, they are not subsidized. France can act unilaterally yet call itself a good citizen of the Union because it verbally acknowledges the international dimension of the problem and proposes "regulation," as yet uncoordinated with its partner-competitors, as a solution.
To be sure, hypocrisy is and always has been the norm in European agricultural policy. Large voter blocs are involved. Candor about long-term strategy can be politically fatal. But it's not convincing to propose mere "change" as a solution. "I won't continue the failed policies of the past." Fine. That's a beginning. But what is the long-term goal?
A few details here.
Monday, October 26, 2009
« Il a à la fois la passion et en même temps, il a la raison. Et finalement ce sont des qualités génétiques. »
Pascal Riché observes that there are many other instances in which political figures on the right have perceived peculiar genetic influences.
Elle a surtout détesté qu'une dirigeante UMP déclare qu'elle ferait plus «couleur locale» dans le Val-d'Oise. «C'est insupportable d'entendre que je serai la candidate des Africains», s'exclame Yade, qui s'oppose à une «candidature ethnique».
Yade is not happy with the UMP, and the Elysée is not happy with Yade. How about a little ouverture on the left?
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Many and many a talent has announced itself at the age of twenty-three. The vigour of manhood is suddenly at the flood, tutelage and self-doubt are shaken off, and a Byron, an Hugo, a Picasso appears. At twenty-four Pitt was Prime Minister; at twenty-five Bonaparte captured Toulon. Tocqueville's time had come ...
Too bad Jean Sarkozy's defenders didn't have this quote at their fingertips.
*Hugh Brogan, Alexis de Tocqueville: A Life, p. 89. (Ignore the error in the bibliography which attributes my work to someone else.)
More seriously, when the Left railed against the addition of the "national identity" tag to the ministry of immigration, I thought the criticism was excessive. Now I'm not so sure.
But the most telling gauge of the respect being given to the new historians and their penchant for tearing down established wisdom is that it has now become almost routine for American commanders to call on them for advice on strategy and tactics in Afghanistan, Iraq and other present-day conflicts.
The most influential example is the “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” adopted in 2006 by the United States Army and Marines and smack in the middle of the debate over whether to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.Gen. David H. Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the head of the United States Central Command, drew on dozens of academic historians and other experts to create the manual. And he named Conrad Crane, director of the United States Army Military History Institute at the Army War College, as the lead writer.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
A politician never wants to become the butt of ridicule, but the Jean Sarkozy episode was fast becoming paradigmatic for every kind of political shadiness. Witness this episode from the Clearstream trial, of all places:
On ... a rapporté [à Jean Sarkozy] qu'au cœur même du procès Clearstream, l'avocat du jeune stagiaire Florian Bourges a fait rire la salle lâchant dans sa plaidoirie: "Il a 23 ans, il n'a pas fini ses études, il est immature… avez-vous dit, monsieur le procureur. Je trouve que c'est une conclusion audacieuse de votre part ! Enfin, pour ce qui est de Florian Bourges, c'est vrai!"
This comment on the future of both Jean Sarkozy and EPAD should also be read.
Sa tentative de ravir la position de victime à Nicolas Sarkozy ne serait pas loin de porter ses fruits. Selon un récent sondage OpinionWay-Le Figaro, Dominique de Villepin est considéré comme le « meilleur opposant » à Nicolas Sarkozy devant Ségolène Royal, Martine Aubry et François Bayrou.
Un proche de Dominique de Villepin confie que ce procès a joué comme un « tremplin » pour son retour en politique :
« Il y a bien sûr eu l'occupation médiatique. Mais alors qu'il était présenté comme un coupable au début, il en sort davantage avec une image de victime. Je dirais presque que l'inverse est vrai pour Nicolas Sarkozy. »
Of course there remains the small problem of the verdict. Polling won't decide that.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Compare his subdued demeanor tonight with his exuberant pugnacity when he pressed his candidacy on FR3 as an expression of the will of the people through universal suffrage. Tonight he said rather that success in politics is a matter of listening to what people are saying: even if you've got the votes, you don't have legitimacy if people believe that the process that gave them to you was biased.
He may have gotten only 11 in "history of political ideas," but this was right on the mark. So he's passed the first test in politics: knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. To be sure, he had the advice of an old hand: his father--not the president, he said, just my dad. Another masterful stroke: like any young man in a difficult situation, he consulted his dad. Who could possibly hold that against him? No nepotism there; no collusion; no circumvention of hierarchy. Just a boy and his dad, not a king and his heir plotting against envious courtiers.
It was beautifully done. And after the elder Sarkozy had put everyone's back up (including mine--see earlier comment) with his suggestion that all that counts in politics is action, and talk is cheap. Jean confirmed that talk is not so cheap after all: it can stop actors in their tracks. But it can't stop them from acting (in the theatrical sense), from turning defeat to advantage by framing it as "a decision of reason," a step toward maturity--which indeed it was.
Jean Sarkozy emerges from this episode a net winner. He has had all the national exposure a young and ambitious politician of 23 could wish for. He has shown himself capable of playing in prime time. He has mastered all the codes of communication. He is a consummate performer. He avoids the down side of the top job at EPAD: if there is corruption there, as there undoubtedly is, he won't bear prima facie responsibility for it. And yet he will still be elected tomorrow to the post of administrateur--a nice consolation prize.
Bien joué, jeune homme.
Jean Sarkozy renonce à la présidence de l'EPAD
Après plusieurs jours de polémique, le fils du président de la République a annoncé jeudi sur France 2 qu'il renonçait à se présenter à la présidence de l'Etablissement public d'aménagement de la Défense.
"The Future of French Youth"
Louis Chauvel, Professor of Sociology at Sciences-Po, University of Paris
4:15 PM - 6:00 PM
Lower Level Conference Room
The Future of France Series co-sponsored by Sciences-Po, Seminar on French Politics, Culture and Society, The Study Group on Inclusion and Exclusion in an Expanded Europe
Discussant: Mary Brinton, Professor of Sociology, Harvard University
"The Future of France Series" is organized by Michèle Lamont and Eloi Laurent. I will be speaking on Nov. 23 on "The Future of French Culture" (actually more about the past, but "The past is prologue," as Shakespeare said).
"Les commentateurs, ils commentent. Moi je suis du côté des acteurs, donc j'agis. Leur façon d'agir, c'est de commenter, c'est nécessaire. Ma façon d'agir, c'est d'agir, c'est indispensable, ce n'est pas le même travail."
"Naturellement, celui qui commente il est moins soumis à la critique que celui qui agit, moi, j'ai été élu pour agir je ne m'arrêterai pas, il en faut plus que ça pour m'arrêter."
"Je dois arrêter d'agir parce qu'il y en a un à gauche qui n'est pas content. Ils ne sont jamais contents. Et puis je dois arrêter d'agir aussi puisqu'il y en a un à droite qui n'est pas content."
"Si je dois attendre que tout le monde soit content pour agir, je repasserai à mon successeur le flambeau de tous les problèmes que j'ai trouvés et que j'aurais laissés dans le même état."
"Je vais continuer à me déplacer. Je dois aller sur le terrain voir ce qui se passe, je dois entendre ce que les gens disent, je dois expliquer ce qu'on fait, et je dois donner le moral aussi, comme si les seules nouvelles qui trouvaient gré aux yeux des commentateurs, c'est les mauvaises."
Actually, you have to hear him deliver these improvised remarks to get the full flavor. It's not so much the substance of what he says that irritates; it's the tone. It's the overt expression of contempt for anyone who gets in his way or even hesitates, questions, or expresses doubt. It's the certainty that there is no way but his way. It's the frankness of the distinction he draws between active force in government and mere "commentary." And since government as he conceives it has only one active center, indeed only one "actor," without whom nothing that is proposed, discussed, or merely "commented" upon by the "commentariat," which in Sarkozy's conception includes all the elected representatives of the people ("un à gauche qui n'est pas content ... un à droite qui n'est pas content"), has any reality. There is only one reality: the field on which the Actor acts.
Sarko's prepared speeches are rarely as revealing as his improvised sallies (which may in fact be quite carefully prepared in advance--there's something about his spontaneity that hints at premeditation--or perhaps he merely broods on his resentment, ruminates on his rancor until it is mature and can no longer be held back).
So we have here an interesting parallel to the Polanski case. Of course there are clear differences: Polanski did not murder his victim, the victim (or in this case her father) was not willing to let bygones be bygones, no monetary "damages" were paid, and no court outside the convicting country examined the case. Still, one might expect such outspoken civil libertarians as Mitterrand and Kouchner and Finkielkraut to protest the abduction of a free German citizen by a French paternal avenger. Of course the doctor is not an artist. And as M. Finkielkraut remarked a propos of Polanski's victim, who was even younger than Kalinka Bamberski, you can never tell about girls these days. We live in such a corrupt, decadent society (dixit Finkielkraut and the Taliban) that the presumption of innocence no longer applies even to those of tender age. (h/t Steve)
P.S. Polanski is considering a return to the US to face charges. It seems he's thinking that he might have an easier time of it in US courts, since the victim wants the case to go away.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Dans une circonscription acquise à la droite, le score de Jean Sarkozy n’a pas été bon : élu avec 51,91% des voix quand son prédécesseur avait obtenu 71% en 2001, la contre-performance est réelle, mais elle était passée inaperçue.As for his performance as conseiller général and local party leader, I really can't say. Perhaps some reader has been following his work more closely than I. But if we're going to talk about political skills, perhaps we should cite some specific ones rather than sticking to generalities.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Note that he's now doing his second year of law for the third time.
Le tribunal correctionnel de Vienne (Isère) a condamné mardi à 18 mois d'emprisonnement avec sursis le maire de Pont-de-Chéruy dans l'Isère, Alain Tuduri, pour "discrimination raciale". L'élu était poursuivi pour avoir usé abusivement de son droit de préemption d'empêcher des acquéreurs potentiels de biens immobiliers portant un nom à consonance maghrébine de s'installer sur la commune...
This is where Sarkozy demonstrates his indefatigable stamina. Another president might leave the nuts and bolts of governance reform to, say, his prime minister. Not Sarko. He's right there on the front lines himself. And by the way, who is his prime minister again?
So the Greens, who were nipping at the heels of the PS in the European elections, are now starting to pick off midlevel officials of the party. The handwriting is on the wall.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Whoops! Not so fast. The palace has spoken. The revolt is crushed.
"C'est un garçon de qualité, sympathique, que je connais depuis très longtemps", a-t-il dit.
That's the judgment of Jean Sarkozy, age 23, by Claude Leroi, head of the chamber of commerce of Hauts-de-Seine. And a good thing for young Sarko, too, because Leroi just happens to be the tie-breaking vote in the election of the head of EPAD, should the government representatives on the board abstain from voting, as Luc Chatel suggested yesterday they might.
There's no question that Jean Sarkozy is of legal age to do whatever he likes with whomever he likes. So that settles that.
Bataille says "Écrire est tout de même faire le contraire de travailler." This, he says, is why writers feel an obscure sense of guilt. Au contraire, Georges. We feel guilty because we're always tempted to quit writing and "travailler plus pour gagner plus," to borrow a phrase.
Frédéric Mitterrand should watch this clip.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
There is no doubt in my view that the ECB has an asymmetric interpretation of its price stability mandate. Excessive inflation is to be avoided at all cost. However, excessive deflation can be tolerated and rationalized.
Buiter doesn't link this observation to the demonstrations of farmers across France against falling producer prices for food and impending bankruptcy for many of them, but it's plausible to think that the strong euro is favoring imported over homegrown agricultural products. The demonstrations in France have been smoldering with rage against the government, but in this case the government and the demonstrators may have a common antagonist: the ECB.
Perhaps we should take nominations for the Sarkoflunky of the month award. Estrosi, featured in the link above, enjoys substantial competition this week, but he gets my nod because he flattered the chief directly rather than by way of his son. Still, just as the president noted that those who attacked his son were really attacking him, those who praise his son are really lauding him. For the record, they include Patrick Balkany ("Jean has more talent than his father had at the same age"), Isabelle Balkany ("he is the best among us"), Jean-François Copé ("he was elected!"), and, most remarkably, Eric Besson ("when a talent explodes on the football field at age 16 or 17, you don't ask how old he is").
I am grateful to Copé, however, for reminding me of Sarkozy's characterization of the French: "Ils sont monarchistes et régicides." Indeed. And Copé would be the first to voter la mort if he thought he could head le comité de salut public.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
[Martine Aubry] a jugé que "ce qui va", outre les ateliers du PCF, la journée sur l'emploi, et celle à venir des Verts sur le développement durable, c'est "la volonté de porter haut les valeurs de la gauche et d'être capables de construire un autre projet de société tout en étant près des Français aujourd'hui et notamment de tous ceux qui souffrent".
If I were an editor of the Dictionnaire Robert, I'd clip this for an illustration of the phrase langue de bois.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Or maybe we're supposed to think "cool pols."
Of course this is but a bump in the road. Sarkozy is too firmly in command to be thrown seriously off course by this alone. But it is a sign of vulnerability, of overreaching, of overconfidence and consequent imprudence. He may correct himself, as he did after the vacation in Luxor, the sojourn on Bolloré's yacht, and the dinner at Fouquet's. Or he may react, as he sometimes does and as he did in yesterday's interview in Le Figaro, with pugnacity. Rage may lead to further blunders. It's unlikely. Sarko is too canny a politician, and he'll probably find a way out of this dilemma, if necessary by sacrificing Jeannot, who, at 23, still has plenty of time to recover from the blow ...
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
BLOG ACTION DAY: This is a special guest post from Eloi Laurent, to mark International Blog Action Day, the theme of which this year is climate change. His book with Jean-Paul Fitoussi, La Nouvelle écologie politique: Économie et développement humain, is well worth your attention.
Early next year, France will introduce a carbon tax, becoming the largest economy in the world to do so. As the increasingly uncertain global negotiations prior to the Copenhagen summit draw to a close, and the nations of the world prepare to draft a successor to the fatally flawed Kyoto Protocol, this is an important commitment. First, because it somewhat eases the grave "crisis of credibility" that currently plague the UN talks among the developed countries (proposed mitigation efforts are obviously insufficient and offers of financial aid to assist developing countries in adapting are even more so, given the historical responsibility of the developed countries in causing climate change). Second, because carbon taxes are an efficient but underutilized economic instrument for curbing so-called "diffuse pollution", i.e. decentralized greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions stemming from transport and housing. Because these emissions come from hundreds of millions of sources, they are very hard to monitor and reduce through cap-and-trade markets (which are much better suited to curbing centralized pollution by energy-producing and energy-intensive industrial sectors; for example, the EU Emission Trading Scheme, or ETS, comprises a mere 11 000 participating installations). The French initiative is thus to be commended.
Yet as we enter the nuts and bolts era of climate change policy, we have to go beyond good intentions and take a hard look at the details of proposed policies, in search of the proverbial devil.
The obvious question to be asked first is "why?". Why would France need a carbon tax, while it enjoys the lowest carbon-intensive economic growth in the developed world thanks to the massive investment it made some thirty years ago in nuclear power (see graph below from the latest UN WDR and data on carbon intensity from the EIA here)?
(see top figure, click to enlarge)
Source: WDR 2010.
The answer is legal: France has committed since 2007 to a new development strategy based on ecological sustainability. The so-called "Grenelle de l'environnement" has now been translated into law, with another law currently under debate in Parliament (for more on this and on French attitudes towards climate change, see Laurent, 2009). This law demands that France divide its GHG emissions by a factor 4 from 1990 to 2050, when it should emit less than 140 millions tons of CO2. But why would we need a carbon tax to do that? The answer here is empirical, and comes from the observation of GHG emissions dynamics in the French economy during the last four decades.
(see middle figure above)
French emissions of CO2, 1960-2008, in millions of tons
Source: Laurent and Le Cacheux, 2009.
What is clear from this graph is that the French economy suffers, ecologically speaking, from "nuclear fatigue" or "complacency": sins in diffuse pollution from housing and transportation have over time offset energy virtue (road transportation alone now accounts for a third of total emissions, as its share increased by an astonishing 490% since 1960). Hence, if French CO2 emissions went down 30% from 1980 to 2007, they only decreased by 10% from 1990 to 2007. If France is to respect its commitment and reach the "factor 4" target by 2050 (in line with the scientific consensus framed by the IPCC), it must control its diffuse emissions. If it is to control these emissions, it has to find an economic instrument able to do just that.
Carbon tax is the way to go. But doesn't France already heavily tax carbon through existing energy taxation? Well, not really, at least not by European standards: the latest data compiled by Eurostat show that energy taxation has, if anything, gone down in the last decade in France, the country now ranking at the very bottom of the EU both for energy taxes as % of GDP, with 1,4% in 2007 (23rd out of 27) and for energy taxes as % of total taxation, with 3,3% in 2007 (26th out of 27), see table below.
Evolution of energy taxation in the EU
Energy taxes as % of GDP
Energy taxes as % of total taxation
1995 to 2007
2000 to 2007
1995 to 2007
2000 to 2007
The crucial question thus becomes "how?" Two issues are at stake here: how to choose the right "carbon price" and even more importantly the right carbon price trajectory so that the tax reform is a success in terms of ecological efficiency? How to compensate for social regressivity effects in order to improve political acceptability, given the fact that more modest French households pay, like households everywhere else, a higher share of their income on energy (2.5 times more for the bottom 20% compared to the top 20%)?
On these two fronts, alas, the political debate does not look good so far.
The first point has been a classical example of "idealist" experts v "realist" politicians (on the issue of climate change, adjectives should be inverted). In the end, President Sarkozy set the price tag at 17 euros per ton of CO2 for 2010. This level is substantially lower than the 32 euros per ton of CO2 advocated by the Rocard Commission, most members of which actually favored a launching level of 45 euros. But France could end up with a third of what is required by science, even lower. Worse still, there is no clear political indication to date about the price trajectory, experts setting the 2030 level at 100 euros (a level Sweden already surpasses) to eventually reach the "factor 4" target. Reading Sarkozy's September 10 speech of carefully, one realizes that it was the EU ETS (the European carbon market) that led the president to settle on the figure of 17 euros:
Cependant, sur le marché où s'échangent aujourd'hui les quotas d'émissions entre grandes entreprises, la valeur de la tonne de CO2 se situe en moyenne depuis sa création en février 2008 autour de 17 euros. Qui comprendrait que les ménages et les PME soient imposés sur une base deux fois plus élevée que celle des grandes entreprises soumises à quotas d'émissions ? En responsabilité, j'ai donc décidé que le niveau de départ de cette fiscalité nouvelle serait fixé par référence à la valeur des quotas d'émission de CO2 sur le marché du carbone.
« Stratégie de la France dans la lutte contre le réchauffement climatique »
Artemare (Ain) – Jeudi 10 septembre 2009
The French decision thus reveals that the flaws of the EU ETS not only are a problem for the sectors it covers, but also for the other sectors for which is serves as a benchmark (on the problems related to EU ETS, and more generally on the EU climate change policy, see my recent presentation at Art's seminar:
The second key issue is that of compensation. Contrary to a common belief, it is perfectly possible to preserve the ecological efficiency of carbon taxes by not allowing any exemption and yet compensate households financially to ease energy taxation social regressivity. In other words, it is perfectly possible to render compatible social justice and sustainability through intelligent policy design. The French case illustrates this nicely. Computations by ADEME, the French agency for environment and energy efficiency, show that, for instance, with transfers of 94 euros for people living in the country and 76 euros for people living in urban areas, the tax actually benefits French citizens up to the third decile of income distribution (see table).
(see bottom figure above)
Impact of a 17 euros/t carbon tax on the French income distribution, in euros/year
Source: adapted from ADEME/Alternatives Economiques.
Other economically sound compensation options exist, such as lowering social contributions to foster employment, not a bad idea in current economic times. Yet, the government wants to compensate households through tax credits on their income taxes, a strategy that will hurt one of the last bits of progressivity remaining in the French tax system.
Overall, debates surrounding the introduction of a carbon tax in France are quite a good example of the truth that ecologically efficient and socially fair solutions do exist to curb climate change, but that it takes pedagogy and above all political courage to bring them into being. We are left with the hope that the parliamentary debate that will begin in France in the next weeks can improve this crucial but imperfect reform. It is not at all clear that this is a hope we can believe in.
Éloi Laurent is an economist and scientific advisor at OFCE/Sciences-po (Paris)
and a visiting scholar at Harvard Center for European studies.
This post is based on a talk on "The Future of France climate and carbon policy" that will be given on Dec 1st at Harvard University Center for European Studies, 4-6pm, concluding the "Future of France" conference series (organized by Michèle Lamont and Éloi Laurent).