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Hello, Professor Thomas Sterner, who was in Paris last week to talk about the Swedish carbon dioxide tax


Thomas Strerner

Hello, Thomas Sterner, Professor of Environmental Economics, who was invited to Paris last week to testify to French ministers how the Swedish carbon dioxide tax works, because France is about to introduce a carbon dioxide tax on Swedish level to bring down its greenhouse gas emissions.

What was that context?

I was invited by France's Minister for Finance Bruno Le Maire, and Nicolas Hulot, Minister of Ecological and Solidary Transition. There was a big meeting at the French Ministry of Environment at Hotel De Roquelaure on Boulevard Saint-Germain. I just received a thank-you letter from Minister Nicolas Hulot. He wrote that it was a very important step in the work of "Green Fiscality".

What did you say to the ministers?

I told them about the Swedish experience. There is some nervousness about doing something this big and controversial, and they explicitly refer to the Swedish experience. They wanted to hear about the Swedish experience of introducing such high carbon taxes in our country.

How did they react, what did they ask?

They wondered if there were no protests, and what was done to compensate potentially poor people who could not pay their energy bills. They wanted to know details about exceptions and rules for industry, for example.

What do you think will happen now?

I think and hope that they stick to their plans and that there will be no backlash. I think it's important to communicate and explain such a measure in a good way, so that people get involved. Minister Nicolas Hulot promised to attend the 6th World Congress of Environmental and Resource Economists, organized here at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the end of June this year!

You held your speech in French. How many languages do you know?

I speak English, French, Spanish and German. It's only because I lived for long periods abroad, but now it's getting to be a bit of a hobby and I sometimes try some other language (mostly Italian).

Today people express shame at the idea of air travel: Is it justifiable to go to Paris for a purpose like this?

Yes, when the purpose is to work with the climate, it's fine, but I think it’s well worth reflecting a little bit extra every time. In the past, I have traveled to Paris by train many times. It did not really take much longer. In fact, flying takes half a day and the train used to take one night plus just over half a day. But the train connections have deteriorated dramatically since the 1970s and 1980s. Today, a train ride to Paris requires 5 to 6 changes (and then we are talking about waiting for 2-3 hours in places like Cologne and Essen in the middle of the night), so they have made it as difficult as possible!