Climate policies fuel riots

Liberty, equality, fraternity.

What accounts for the fury of the “yellow jackets” as they rage against Macron’s new climate taxes? Why has this protest continued for over three weeks and, according to polls, gained the support of 73% of the French population?

In the first place, they all know that the 7c/litre on diesel and 4c/litre on petrol to subsidise renewable energy are quite unnecessary taxes, driven by the virtue-signalling of smug politicians. They know both fuel taxes and renewable energy are highly regressive, reducing the disposable income of poorer households while they drive up the cost of food and other essentials. They would have voted in droves against an expensive and futile “war on climate change”, but have never been given that chance.

This response should not have been a surprise. For the last 20 years, in polls taken all over the world, climate change has almost always come last in lists of voter concerns.

When asked how much they would be prepared to pay to “fix” the changing climate, the standard answer has been $5 per household per month. That limit is already well exceeded in many developed countries. But no government has ever come up with any convincing fix. Instead, they propose taxes, levies, subsidies, mandates, etc., which the electorate invariably regards with justifiable suspicion.

Unless you believe that future climate changes are: (a) a serious threat to your family, (b) caused by your use of fossil fuels and (c) fixed by price rises — you are going to oppose a carbon tax.

Aren’t most people anxious about human-induced global warming? Well no, not really. Hundreds of polls on climate change show a core of ‘very worried’ (20-25%), larger layers of ‘worried’ and ‘not worried’ (both 30-40%), then a small core of ‘not happening’ (10-15%). But on the different question of whether climate is human-caused, the participants tend to split about 50:50. There is never a majority who are convinced that there is a real but solvable problem.

No government has been able to introduce a nation-wide ETS (energy tax) since New Zealand did so in 2008. Look what happened in Australia. And is happening now in Canada. Just last month, electoral appeal was again put to the test by referenda in Washington and Colorado – the most regulation-friendly of States. Both electorates rejected a carbon tax.

So the agitation in France stems from an unpopular, undemocratic, regressive climate policy. But that’s far from the whole story. The ‘silent majority’ have long recognised that this policy is driven by a small Paris-bound elite of academics/bureaucrats who wield a ‘green’ ideology (or theology) with the aim of re-engineering the world. This arrogant coterie is uninterested in any cost-benefit for the masses, will not debate the issues, and de-platforms their critics. They rely upon flagrant scaremongering and hyperbole, implausible arguments, relentless propaganda and savage bullying of opponents.

No doubt all this would work in a totalitarian state. In a democracy, it inevitably builds resentment and outrage to the point of a boilover. Most people happily ignore the rhetoric and antics of the political classes until a week or so before an election, but they can’t and won’t tolerate political sabotage to their lives and families. And they hate being used as pawns by an urban elite.

In the past, one would have expected the national media to provide some balance or at least a safety valve. But the worldwide trend to tribalised media has seen almost all mainstream outlets align openly with the climate elite. No debates. No contrary op-eds. Even letters are heavily censored – New Zealand’s Fairfax has declared it “will not provide a venue for hoax advocacy or denialism.”

The bias even extends to news reporting. When the New Zealand media report the Paris riots, they ascribe the tension to “rising petrol prices” and “living costs” rather than to climate policy. This is despite getting their news from Reuters, whose report discusses at length the backlash that always seems to accompany climate policy, e.g.:

Macron’s plight illustrates a conundrum: How do political leaders introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election?

See other examples of real news reporting on French rage here, here and here. Macron has also issued a ban on oil and gas exploration and his approval rating now hovers around 20%.

Perhaps the main lesson from France is that politicians should not assume their electorates are stupid. In New Zealand, the recent tax increases on fuel have been comparable to those in France and people here are nursing a similar sense of injustice. The Government has picked up on this  -– and has responded with a year-long enquiry into the practices of the petroleum industry! The inquiry will cost taxpayers $1.5 million.

The Prime Minister said that the Government is committed “to easing financial pressure on families,” that New Zealanders “deserve peace of mind that the price they’re paying at the pump is fair,” and “It’s in the public interest to ensure people and businesses aren’t paying too much for fuel.” The Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Mr Faafoi, added that “the fuel market is hugely important to consumers and to the economy.”

The Prime Minister claimed that New Zealand fuel taxes were the sixth lowest in the OECD without disclosing that, next month, they will be the second highest in the OECD outside of Europe. They are the highest in the English-speaking world. They are higher than in all but two of our top 15 trading partners.

The ETS tax on petrol and diesel has risen 400% + GST over the last three years, but has failed to reduce the six billion litres of petrol and diesel used for land transport annually. But that is just a start. This Government has pledged to lead the world in reducing transport emissions to zero and the Productivity Commission has reported (at p. 147) that:

“New Zealand’s emissions prices have been too low to incentivise meaningful reductions in emissions. All evidence points to the prospect that emissions prices may need to rise to at least $75 a tonne, and possibly, if new emissions-reducing technologies are slow to emerge, to more than $200 a tonne, over the next three decades.”

The reaction in France gives New Zealand’s politicians a useful foretaste of what is to come.

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13 Thoughts on “Climate policies fuel riots

  1. Barry Brill on 04/12/2018 at 10:22 pm said:

    The Wall Street Journal today editorialises on the French resistance and rejections of carbon taxes (and emission trading schemes) all over the world.

    The editorial concludes:
    “After decades of global conferences, forests of reports, dire television documentaries, celebrity appeals, school-curriculum overhauls and media bludgeoning, voters don’t believe that climate change justifies policies that would raise their cost of living and hurt the economy.”

  2. Barry Brill on 04/12/2018 at 10:29 pm said:

    Also in today’s Journal, Walter Russell Mead comments on the failure of Macron’s climate policy in “Vive Le Nationalisme”:

    “It is ironic that it was a “green” fuel tax that sparked the rioting across France. From the standpoint of the elites who manage France’s international portfolio, France’s climate policy has been a great success. As they see it, shrewd French diplomacy brought the world to Paris in 2015 to resolve a global problem and draft a climate accord that lays the blueprint for humanity’s green future. For Mr. Macron and his associates, this is all about Making France Great Again while saving the planet. It is a glorious achievement; the French should be thrilled.

    They are not. Like peasants complaining that the splendors of Versailles did nothing to feed their children, French van drivers, commuters and farmers thronged the streets across the country. They don’t want grandeur and they don’t want international summits. They want bread—or lower fuel prices, which is much the same thing.”

  3. Andy on 05/12/2018 at 2:03 am said:

    I found this relevant quote from Jung:

    It is becoming more and more obvious that it is not starvation not microbes, not cancer but man himself who is mankind’s greatest danger, because he has no adequate protection against psychic epidemics, which are infinitely more devastating in their effect that the greatest natural catastrophes.

  4. Barry Brill on 05/12/2018 at 2:23 am said:

    “We have met the enemy and he is us” (Pogo the Possum agrees with Jung).

    News: France Suspends Controversial Fuel Tax

    PARIS — French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced Tuesday that the French government would temporarily suspend the controversial carbon tax plan that triggered weeks of often violent protests around the country.

    To help curb climate change, the government had proposed a slew of new carbon taxes that were slated to take effect in January 2019 and were designed to wean consumers off diesel and other polluting fuels and to favor electric cars. But the price hikes those taxes represented triggered a wave of social unrest unseen in recent years that quickly became a full-blown crisis, and President Emmanuel Macron became the latest world leader to suffer at home for imposing green taxes.

    “No tax is worth putting in danger the unity of the nation,” Philippe said, as he announced the suspension.

  5. Andy on 05/12/2018 at 4:02 am said:

    Whilst I am glad that France has backtracked on their taxes, I’m not sure it sets a great precedent to cave into rioters burning cars, however much I may have sympathy with their plight.

  6. Andy on 05/12/2018 at 4:57 am said:

    My thoughts seem to be echoed by satirical website The Babylon Bee

    PARIS—Finally addressing the rising unrest over climate change taxes and other cost of living issues, French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the protesters for not using carbon-neutral rioting methods.

    Macron blasted the movement for callously burning cars on the streets and setting fires that would contribute to global warming.

    “These protesters are burning entire cars when a strongly worded letter would suffice,” he said. “Preferrably on recycled paper.” He also suggested blowing bubbles and speaking words of encouragement to one another in the streets. “This is a much more powerful demonstration than using fire and violence.”

    The French government also said it would sell carbon credits to protesters who still wish to partake in torching property all over Paris. “We’re offering a discounted rate on carbon credits to offset your violent activities, for a limited time only. Now you can protest ethically.”

    The president concluded his speech with a powerful statement: “Let them eat carbon-neutral, ethically sourced cake.”

  7. Barry Brill on 08/12/2018 at 12:49 pm said:

    The French government has now permanently canned the carbon tax that was to come into effect in 2019:

    This decision was despite Mr Macron’s earlier statement: “One cannot be on Monday for the environment, and on Tuesday against the increase of fuel prices.”

    It seems PM Ardern also disagrees. On Monday she was all for leading the world in reducing CO2 emissions, while on Tuesday she emerged as a steely defender of low petrol prices.

  8. Barry Brill on 08/12/2018 at 2:15 pm said:

    The one-eyed attitude of the media to all things climate has played a major role in building the frustration of the yellow-jackets.

    “The level of treason on the part of the press is astounding. I think it’s at least on the level of the USA. Constant lies. Constant pointing the finger at this movement, that it’s anti-Macron, possible neo-Nazi” … Some protesters have dubbed members of the media “editocrats” for perceived favours to the government.

    Is Stuff staffed with editocrats?

  9. Richard Treadgold on 08/12/2018 at 5:13 pm said:


    It seems PM Ardern also disagrees. On Monday she was all for leading the world in reducing CO2 emissions, while on Tuesday she emerged as a steely defender of low petrol prices.

    Oh, fickle worldly mind! For why is reasonable so endlessly unseasonable?

    “Editocrats”? Well, creative, yes, but I would vote for journocrats as better, since rythm stalks the letter. But never mind the sound: I do declare, that’s neither here nor there—the main point is that what they say is vain, like all hot air.

  10. Barry Brill on 09/12/2018 at 7:55 pm said:

    Greg Sheridan in ‘The Australian’:

    “France’s population has been subject to decades of relentless education/propaganda on the carbon demon. Yet faced with a choice between ­action on climate change and lower petrol prices, the French rioters chose lower petrol prices in a heartbeat, and their government gave in to them in a heartbeat.

    What does this say about the policy resolve of any Western government on this issue?”

  11. Barry Brill on 09/12/2018 at 8:18 pm said:

    Tweet from @realDonaldTrump
    “Very sad day & night in Paris. Maybe it’s time to end the ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement and return money back to the people in the form of lower taxes? The U.S. was way ahead of the curve on that and the only major country where emissions went down last year!”

    737 arrested in Paris today.More than 70 arrested in Brussels.

  12. Richard Treadgold on 09/12/2018 at 8:53 pm said:

    Incredible events in France. Sheridan asks a good question about resolve but doesn’t sheet the blame where it lies: the lack of evidence of a human cause. France is a good propaganda opportunity for Trump.

  13. Andy on 10/12/2018 at 5:41 am said:

    Macron’s approval rating is 18%. Trump’s is 50% OTOH

    I saw an horrendous video from Twitter where a Yellow Vest picked up a hand grenade thrown by French Military and has his hand blown off

    French police are “kettling” protesters (i.e surrounding them) and throwing tear gas into the crowd

    It’s hard to know where this is going to end. We also have the crucial Brexit vote this week in the UK.

    The BBC is describing this as the biggest political event since WW2

    I’m currently bunkering down in a cabin in snowy Norway!

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