France court holds government liable in air pollution case
© WikiMedia (Mariordo)
France court holds government liable in air pollution case

The Administrative Court in Montreuil, France held Tuesday that the state is liable to a mother (Mrs. T) and daughter, for inadequacy of air quality.

Mrs. T brought the claim with the backing of NGOs after both herself and her daughter suffered respiratory health issues including bronchitis and asthma. Mrs. T said that both of their health issues cleared up when they moved out of the city of Paris and into the countryside. They claim that the French authorities did not do enough to address atmospheric pollution, specifically during a particularly bad period in December 2016.

Their claims were brought on the basis that France had failed to meet responsibilities outlined in Articles 13 and 23 of the EU Air Quality Directive, which require that the member nations meet targets and do not exceed an “emissions ceiling for atmospheric pollutants,” and to make the reporting of air quality and information accessible. Additionally, they claimed France had not met the responsibilities of the European Convention on safeguarding human rights, Articles 2 which protects the right to life, and 8 which protects the right to private and family life. And finally, they claimed France failed to meet Article L. 220-1 of the Code of the Environment, which protects the right of everyone to breathe air that does not harm their health.

The court ruled in favor of Mrs. T for her claims against the state for responsibility to address the pollution, but the court ruled against their claims for compensation, denying the mother and daughter financial damages.

This ruling is a first and will likely have an impact on some 40 other cases on the same issue that are awaiting judgement in other French cities. According to Public Health France, pollution is responsible for some 48,000 premature deaths per year in France. There is growing concern over pollution in Paris, which have been compounded by the heatwave in the capital and other parts of France.