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French Constitutional Council nixes carbon tax for being insufficiently tax-y

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In response to a legal challenge by the Socialist Party, France's Constitutional Council -- their Supreme Court, as I understand it -- rejected Nicolas Sarkozy's carbon tax. Why? Because it "allowed for too many exemptions. The council, it seems, was was offended because the tax wouldn't apply to 93% of industrial emissions. In France, this is apparently enough to get your law thrown out, as it violates "the principle of tax equality."

But imagine that: In France, you can't have a carbon tax unless it's a really awesome carbon tax. The government is expected to present a revised carbon tax that falls more heavily on industrial polluters by January 20th.

Update: A read writes in:

Just a small note to inform you that your understanding that the Constitutional Council is France's Supreme Court is in fact incorrect.

The equivalents of the Supreme Court in France are the Conseil d'atat (for the administrative order) and the Cour de cassation (for the judicial order). (As you can see, France has two distinct jurisdictional orders.)

The Conseil constitutionnel is not in any way part of the administrative/judicial hierarchies of tribunals. It is a body that makes pronouncements on the constitutional validity of laws *before* they enacted.

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 30, 2009; 4:33 PM ET
 
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Comments

One interesting point here is about - Constitutional Council. Looks like French indeed have a way to determine the constitutionality (in this case it might be more than constitution of France) of laws passed the parliament. In USA we only have to go to Supreme Court (or Federal court as well in case of Congress passed laws?) for the constitutionality of those laws. This issue came prominently for the constitutional validity of some aspects of HCR.

Posted by: umesh409 | December 30, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Its not that the French want too much taxation, it is just the opposite. It appears the carbon tax proposal that could pass the French parliament had too many loopholes to satisfy "fair taxation" as determined by the jurists on the court.

This news story suggests to me that it will be very difficult for the French elected officials to pass a new carbon tax.

Posted by: lancediverson | December 30, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

"Looks like French indeed have a way to determine the constitutionality (in this case it might be more than constitution of France) of laws passed the parliament."

That's common across lots of countries with continentally-inspired legal codes and traditions; the Anglo-American tradition restricts constitutional/supreme courts to discrete cases and controversies, which requires standing.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | December 30, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

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