Sarkozy promises a green revolution for France

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PARIS, Oct 25 (Reuters) President Nicolas Sarkozy promised a green revolution today, unveiling a mix of tax measures and investment pledges that he said would put France in the vanguard of the war against global warming.

''France hasn't fallen behind, but it wants now to be in the lead,'' he said in a speech wrapping up a special environmental policy conference seeking ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions and help change attitudes to the environment in society.

The congress was one of the highest profile green initiatives ever launched in France and fulfilled an election campaign promise by Sarkozy, who has said his government will emphasise sustainable development.

The French president pledged a massive investment programme to improve energy efficiency in buildings, as well measures to encourage greener vehicles.

He also said he would order the suspension of commercial cultivation of crops genetically modified to repel pests, pending a wider study.

France has long lagged behind neighbouring Germany and Scandinavian countries in promoting environmental innovation but, with former U.S. Vice-President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore sitting alongside, Sarkozy faced high expectations.

He steered clear of a generalised ''carbon tax'' that environmental organisations had wanted and unveiled a series of fiscal measures to punish polluting vehicles and bolster the fight against greenhouse gases.

''I am against any extra tax that would weigh on households and companies,'' he said. ''There is no question of increasing the level of taxes.'' However, he pledged to impose a tax on trucks carrying freight across France and revived an idea floated by his predecessor Jacques Chirac that would impose higher taxes on products imported from countries that did not respect the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

''We have to study the possibility of taxing products from countries that do not respect the Kyoto protocols,'' he said.

He proposed lowering value added tax on more environmentally friendly products.

Sarkozy pledged to maintain France's nuclear energy capacity, responsible for about 80 percent of its power output, but also promised to increase the proportion generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar energy.

He also announced a move to shift the millions of trucks that cross France annually away from the highways and on to special cross-country trains, such as one inaugurated this year between Luxembourg and Perpignan, near the Spanish border.

Reuters AB DB0004

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