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Don't use protests in France to curb climate ambitions - French officials

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By Bate Felix

KATOWICE, Poland (Reuters) – Governments should not use the violent protests in France that were sparked by a carbon tax increase as an excuse to stem policies to curb global warming, French officials said on Monday.

French Secretary of State for Ecology Brune Poirson, and Laurent Fabius, who presided over the 2015 Paris climate agreement, said countries must keep up the momentum of that U.N. deal which aims to limit temperature rise to between 1.5 degrees to 2 degrees Celsius by 2030.

“It would be a error to think that because there are problems in France, we should abandon ecological transition,” Fabius told reporters on the sidelines of the U.N. climate conference in Poland.

The former foreign minister whose handling of the Paris negotiations earned him worldwide praise, said countries could not afford to curb climate policies because the consequences would be even more devastating.

“We must move towards that transition, but the transition must be just,” he said, adding that policymakers must ensure that funds earmarked for green policies are used for that purpose, which was not the case in France.

Speaking in a separate briefing, ecology minister Poirson said one of the key messages from the protests was that green taxes had to target industries and not just citizens, and governments needed to communicate their aims more clearly to the public.

She said the French government was exploring ways to revamp fiscal policies to achieve environmental aims.

“That means embracing green budgeting. It is really difficult because it means radically changing they way our institutions, the way our bureaucracy work. But I don’t see how we could do it differently,” Poirson said.

The so-called “yellow vests” protests in France prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to call for the end of what he said was a “ridiculous and extremely expensive Paris Agreement.” Trump has already pulled out of the deal.

(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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