A discourse analysis of yellow-vest resistance against carbon taxes
Rimel I. Mehleb, Giorgos Kallis and Christos Zografos
January 2021
13 p.
Just transition


Carbon taxation is a core instrument for climate mitigation. Its implementation, however, faces popular resistance. In this paper, we study one of the most emblematic mobilizations triggered by the carbon tax issue, the Yellow Vest movement in France. We use Q-methodology, a mixed-method approach to identify discourses (or viewpoints) held by protesters. We find four statistically-distinctive viewpoints, emphasizing respectively: a systemic critique of capitalism; environmental action that is fair; priority over incomes and purchasing power of common people; and inequality and the responsibilities of corporations. Our research points to the importance of ideology in shaping viewpoints and filtering attitudes towards carbon taxes. Yet beyond ideological differences, we find consensus among all discourses, in that there should be more consultation in energy transition policy; the rich and not the poor should pay the cost of transition; and the government should use tax revenue for the transition only. We conclude that, for bold carbon tax schemes to be implemented with less conflict, a much more participatory, transparent and equitable design would be necessary than the one experienced in France.

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