France top administrative court orders state must repair environmental damage
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France top administrative court orders state must repair environmental damage

The French Council of State (Conseil d’Etat) ordered the government Friday to repair the environmental damages caused by the state’s failure to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets. The ruling also ordered the Prime Minister to take immediate action to prevent further aggravation of damage. The court gave a deadline of December 31, 2022, for damage compensation.

The case was initiated in 2018 by four non-profit organizations Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme (FNH), Greenpeace France, Notre Affaire à Tous, and Oxfam France. The plaintiffs had claimed that the state’s inaction on climate change and failure to meet its goals violated a statutory duty to act. After a series of hearings, the court issued an order on February 3, 2021. In the order, the court recognized that France’s inaction had caused ecological damage and awarded the plaintiffs a sum of €1 as moral damages.

France emitted 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in excess of the commitments between 2015 – 2018. Therefore, the state will have to remove 15 million tonnes of GHGs from the country’s “carbon budget” for 2022. The Council, which acts as the Supreme Court for Administrative Justice in France, ordered that any future slippage of emissions must also be compensated. France has committed to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 40 percent by 2030, and the country aims at achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Ultimately, the government now has 14 months to repair the climate decay which has accumulated over the course of 3 years.

Jean-Francois Julliard, the Director of Greenpeace France, said to the reporters, “Now the court system is becoming an ally in our fight against climate change.” Greenpeace France also called this current case, Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. France, the “Affair of the century.”