The French government has decided to drop plans for a domestic carbon tax. In a telling statement, the Prime Minister, Francois Fillon told parliament: “We have to amplify measures that help reinforce the competitiveness of our economy.
“In that spirit, I would like to indicate that the decisions we are going to take regarding sustainable development have to be better coordinated with all European countries, so as not to widen our gap in competitiveness with our neighbour Germany." (source http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8583898.stm )
This illustrates one of the huge failures in our market-driven paradigm. As nation states and corporations are in economic competition with one another, it is unlikely that they will act in a manner that might jeopardise their ability to compete in the international economy in the short term, even if that action is vital and will be beneficial in the mid-to-long term.
It is true that France has a lower per capita emission score (6.2 tonnes per year as opposed to the UK's 9.4 tonnes according to the World Bank 2005 data) (a useful list of countries emission scores here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions), but nevertheless it illustrates the point.
As long as we place economic competitiveness first, we will fail to act radically enough to avert the oncoming crisis.