The President of France promises to do his part toward a global agreement on greenhouse emissions.
A week before sweeping climate change legislation that will change the way America does business passed in the US House of Representatives, the President of France was demonstrating that he is on the same page. Nicolas Sarkozy, who will be attending the Climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark this December, addressed communication to the head of the UN panel of experts saying that the “challenge of a world agreement on climate change must be met.”
Sarkozy’s messages have become increasingly green in recent months, especially when his turn at the presidency of the EU laid bare the many conflicts among member countries on the issue, especially how to divide the responsibility and the costs for any changes. Back in 2007, Sarkozy called for a national “carbon tax” on global-warming pollutants and a European tariff on imports from countries outside the Kyoto Protocol.While no specific countries were cited, it was generally understood that the proposal was targeted at imports from the United States and Australia, the only advanced economies outside the Kyoto agreement, the UN’s landmark pact on greenhouse-gas emissions.
France has been one of the world leaders in environmental issues. Always a staunch supporter of the Kyoto Protocol, France gets 84% of its energy from its nuclear power plants, which, despite its reputation for dangerous meltdowns, is the cleanest form of energy generally available today. France also has an extensive rail system including the high-speed electric TGV trains, that cut down on fossil fuel emissions from automobiles. In a further effort to reduce this pollution, France was among the first countries to offer drivers incentives to buy greener cars as well, and Paris recently installed a system of rental bicycles to give the public another greener alternative for getting around the city. Sarkozy wishes to continue France’s climate change leadership, especially in the light of the dire predictions of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which state that without intervention climate change threatens to lead to cataclysmic drought, floods and epidemics before the end of this century. The head of the panel visited France last week to meet with Sarkozy, and was gratified by the French head of state’s response and pledges of cooperation and leadership on global climate change measures.
Sarkozy has even called on President Obama in recent months to follow the leadership of the EU in the climate change arena, and reverse the environmental isolationism of his predecessor. Sarkozy will probably score some political points at home for the climate change legislation that just passed in the US Congress, which calls for utility companies to get 15% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. In any case, the legislation, provided it passes in the Senate, will give a big boost to the December Copenhagen conference. Then the ball will be in the rest of the world’s court. The U.S. measure aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. Europe has pledged to cut its own emissions by at least 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, and 30 percent if other advanced economies agree to do the same.
However, Sarkozy’s critics say he has not been quite consistent in his support for climate change reforms. The President of France recently expressed his preference for Claude Allegre to head his cabinet’s super-ministry of science, industry and innovation. Allegre, a former climate change champion who has recently reversed his opinion and no longer believes that human activity is responsible for any modifications in the earth’s atmosphere, is seen as an enemy to scientists who preach that global warming can be controlled by changes in peoples’ behavior and energy consumption.
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