BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - At the mouth of a picturesque rural valley in southern France, near the Spanish border, Odessa Roitg has a tough job: trying to get people to use private cars less and greener transport more.
The area of 10 communes, with its base in the arty town of Céret, approved a new climate change plan in December that aims to improve the public bus service and encourage car-sharing for people to get to work, the young bureaucrat said.
The administration itself uses electric bikes and vehicles for some of its operations.
But in this less-prosperous part of France, with few transport alternatives to driving a car, Roitg can understand why some people support ongoing protests by the “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests), sparked in November by a planned hike in diesel taxes.
“People get a bit annoyed when (the government) speaks to them about the environment and sustainable development because it comes with taxes and things costing more, when it should cost them less,” she said.
The “yellow vest” protests caused concern among officials gathered at the annual U.N. climate talks in Poland in December, many of them looking for ways to curb planet-warming emissions without stoking social discontent.
Growing pressure to slash emissions - to meet global warming limits set in the 2015 Paris Agreement and prevent the worst impacts of climate change - means more governments are considering pricing carbon.
Usually that is done by taxing fossil fuels, or by capping industry emissions and setting up a scheme to trade allowances.
Mathilde Bouyé, an associate with the climate program at the Washington-based World Resources Institute, said France’s aborted attempt to hike fuel prices came on top of a tax cut for the wealthy, and was the last straw for hard-up families.
“What is behind this is a matter of equity,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “There is no oppo...