Emmanuel Macron keeps France climate-change tax despite protests

November 28, 2018

France’s commitment to the 2015 Paris climate agreement is coming at a high cost.

French President Emmanuel Macron refused to waver Tuesday on his plan to raise the nation’s gas tax as part of his effort to reduce fossil-fuel reliance, despite a week of violent protests that left 600 injured and two dead.

In a speech to lawmakers, Mr. Macron said he would seek to ease the financial burden on lower-income citizens while remaining committed to cutting emissions in accordance with the Paris accord.

“We should listen to the social alarm and protests, but there is also an environmental alarm,” said Mr. Macron in his speech, according to the BBC.

Nous devons entendre les alarmes sociales mais sans oublier les alarmes environnementales. pic.twitter.com/nrOd86jSlt Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 27, 2018

His announcement came after Paris authorities deployed tear gas and water cannons Saturday to quell “yellow-vest” protesters who lit fires and threw projectiles during a demonstration that drew about 106,000.

Mr. Macron scolded the demonstrators who engaged in violence. About 130 people were reportedly arrested while six were injured, including two officers.

“Shame on all the people who assaulted them,” he tweeted. “Shame to those who voluntarily assaulted citizens and reporters. Shame on those who tried to intimidate our elected.”

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner blamed the unrest on right-wing extremists, saying at a Saturday news conference that, “Today the far right has mobilized.”

A recent poll showed that 80 percent agreed with the yellow-vest protesters fed up with the high cost of living in a country where drivers already pay about $7 per gallon of gas.

The gasoline tax is slated to increase by about 12 cents per gallon, and diesel by about 28 cents, on Jan. 1.

In his Tuesday speech, Mr. Macron said he plans to shut down 14 of the nation’s 58 nuclear reactors by 2035. France now relies on nuclear power for 72 percent of its electrical power, but the president said he wants to lower that percentage to 50 percent while moving to increase solar and wind electrical output.

His administration will also shut down France’s remaining coal-fired plants by 2022, he said.

″[Y]ou cannot be pro-environment on Monday and then when Tuesday comes be against rising fuel prices,” he said.

The challenge for the Macron administration centers on how to make the transition from fossil fuels without impoverishing citizens and inciting more riots over rising costs.

France has the highest tax rate in Europe, with a real tax burden of 57.53 percent, according to a 2016 analysis by Quartz.

“He’s found a solution for saving the environment and being more energy efficient, but who’s going to pay for it? Us, like always,” Benoit Julou, a 44-year-old real estate agent at the protest, told Fin24.

Update hourly