Accepted paper:

A carbon tax dating the future energy market. Arguments and controversies in the French context


Josquin Debaz (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)
Emmanuel Combet

Paper short abstract:

Despite overall agreement concerning the main objectives of a carbon tax, precise reform scheme remains controversial causing a recurrent ‘implementation gap’. Different temporality arguments show short and long run diverse expectations, and result in irreconcilable visions of the future.

Paper long abstract:

Since the first warnings in the late 80's, the use of a price of carbon to mitigate the level of CO2 emissions and climate change has been advocated. With certain exceptions, carbon tax suffers from a recurrent 'implementation gap', as the failed attempt in France in 2009. While the long-term objective of this instrument is largely accepted - to mitigate CO2 emissions and climate change - many actors are against its implementation for short-term reasons.

This paper analyses how different expectations of the future co-exist and explain the recurrence of an 'implementation gap'. The 2009 French debate is used as material for a close scrutiny of the actors' positions and arguments. Although an agreement concerning the main objectives seems to exists (fairness, competitiveness and environmental efficiency), the precise reform scheme that would allow their conciliation remains controversial. We examine, in particular, how the different temporality arguments contribute to support or reject different reform schemes; and how short and long run expectations do not result in a consensual and common vision of the future.

Economic models and calculations are essential when comparing the expected effects of alternative reforms (tax rates, tax bases, and revenue-recycling modes). How actors use the results of the economic analysis? We put forward three dimensions that may not properly be captured into these models, but matters in explaining competing expectations at short and long run: dependence on fossil fuels, household heterogeneity and the redistributive consequences, economic agents responses and indirect effects of the alternative reforms.

panel T078
Contested energy futures and temporalities in retrospective: instruments and practices of forecasting and scenario work