Tax break for polluting diesel

France gives tax breaks to diesel for heavy lorries which cost taxpayers €1 billion per year. At the same time freight transport is responsible for 22% of France’s transport emissions and a huge source of health-damaging air pollution!

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This tax break works by giving a 20% tax deduction for diesel consumption by freight transport companies using vehicles over 7.5 tons. That equates to a reimbursement of about €0.11 per litre. It has existed since 1999 and estimates show that the tax break will overrun €1 billion by 2018.

The sector already has it easy. Commercial road transport is exempted from France’s carbon tax, which is normally included in all fuel taxes, and a toll on commercial road vehicles was abandoned in 2014.

And not only is this polluting road freight transport more damaging to the climate - it is responsible for 22% of the overall CO2 transport emissions - it is also a source of air pollution with increasing impacts on human health. Lorries emit one third of the NOx emissions attributed to the transport sector. A recent study shows that air pollution is responsible for 48.000 premature death each year. At the same time 54% of public transport investments benefitted road transport in 2016 and 73% of the overall expenses linked to the transport sector were absorbed by road transport.

Freight transport needs to be transferred from road to rail for a successful green transition within the transport sector. But road transport companies continue to enjoy preferential treatment over lower carbon options like rail and water transport. This subsidy should be transformed into a tax credit for investing in sustainable transport solutions - during the energy transition - to safeguard the transport sector and its employees.

In May 2018, the government will table a new mobility act in France to drive cleaner mobility and plan funding for transport infrastructure in the future. It’s high time the government stopped using tax-payers’ money on health damaging diesel. This is a unique opportunity to  stop this tax break before it reaches its 20th anniversary in 2019.

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Credits and acknowledgements

Graphic design: Mark Bitter, BITTER design,

Web design: Olov Källgarn, Pixelengine

Financial support: This project has been realized by the helpful support of the KR Foundation and the European Commission LIFE program

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