It looks like France's "hyperactive" president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has found a new issue to flex his political muscles with: his country's green profile. During a two-day long government summit - dubbed the "Grenelle" of the environment (named after a previous set of accords signed in 1968) - a coalition of scientists, policymakers (including Al Gore), industry representatives and unions hashed out a set of environmental reforms aimed at cementing France's eco-standing in the European Union.
Jean-Louis Borloo, the French environment minister, claimed success in pushing for a measure that would require the country to slash its energy consumption by 20% by 2020. Transportation and infrastructure were a big focus of the summit: the participants agreed to expand France's tramway and iconic TGV high-speed train networks, to stop the building of new roads and airports - amongst others (see full list of measures here, in French) - and to impose new standards on future building construction, primarily dealing with better energy efficiency.The only major area of contention concerned the enactment of a carbon tax - which was left up to Nicolas Sarkozy's discretion, who is expected to announce his views on the matter tomorrow evening. Talks came to an impasse when a delegation made up of NGOs and their labor supporters, who argued for the tax's immediate approval, failed to make headway with a group representing several large corporations, who are in favor of an initial "study and evaluation" period.
Sandrine Mathy, the president of an environmental organization, accused the companies of attempting to "torpedo" the measure, while Jean-Paul Besset, a spokesman for several of the participating scientists, called their position "a deception," arguing that "there is a real divergence on the structural aspects of such a measure."
Given all the heat he's taken of late from his European compatriots for his nationalist tendencies, this could be one issue on which the French president stakes a strong, meaningful leadership position.
Via ::ABC News: France aims for 'green revolution' (news website), ::Le Monde: "Taxe carbone" : Jean-Louis Borloo renvoie la décision à Nicolas Sarkozy (news website), ::Les Echos: TGV, autoroutes, bâtiment... : premiers accords au Grenelle de l'environnement (news website)