Page last updated at 17:32 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

EU considers general carbon tax

Paris traffic (file pic)
President Sarkozy has had to delay a French carbon tax amid opposition

The European Commission is planning an EU-wide minimum tax on carbon as part of the EU's green energy agenda - but the UK opposes such a move.

The minimum tax would apply to fuel, natural gas and coal.

The EU's new Taxation Commissioner, Algirdas Semeta, is working to revise the EU's existing Energy Taxation Directive, his spokeswoman said.

Carbon taxes already exist in EU members Sweden, Finland and Denmark. In France the idea is being hotly debated.

Responding to the EU plan on Thursday a UK government spokeswoman said: "We do not support the idea of a mandatory pan-European carbon tax.

"The existing Energy Taxation Directive gives member states the flexibility to introduce a carbon tax if they wish.

"We believe that member states are best placed to choose the policy tools for achieving their climate change objectives."

In Brussels earlier this week, Commissioner Semeta said the adoption of carbon taxes "on a larger, European scale seems desirable, as they would undoubtedly encourage innovation to strengthen energy efficiency and environmental protection".

An EU-wide carbon tax would require the agreement of all 27 EU member states' governments.

A new carbon tax that was supposed to go into effect in France at New Year was struck down, in a blow to President Nicolas Sarkozy.

France's Constitutional Council, a legal compliance watchdog, said there were too many exemptions for polluters in the tax plan.

The tax was set at 17 euros (£15) per tonne of emitted carbon dioxide (CO2).

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the government would work on a new law taking account of the legal ruling.

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