A French court has held the French government liable for failing to meet targets to reduce climate change.
In 2019 four non-governmental organisations – Oxfam France, Notre Affaire a tous, Foundation pour la Nature et I’Homme and Greenpeace – brought a case to the Administrative Court in Paris challenging the failure of the French government to meet targets committed to under the Paris Agreement. The French government has agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
The litigaton was launched following an online petition that gathered 2.3 million signatures – the largest in French history.
The NGOs argued that the State is exceeding its carbon budgets and is not moving quickly enough to renovate buildings to make them energy efficient, or to develop renewable energy. They claim that French citizens rights under the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights to live in a healthy and balanced environment and that the Government has a duty to mitigate any risk to health or the environment.
The NGOs also sought €1 in compensation for moral damage and €1 in compensation for ecological damage.
The Court found that there was ecological damage in France due to climate change and that the French government was partly responsible for this by not meeting its commitments. It did not uphold a claim for symbolic compensation for ecological damage, saying compensation should be made “in kind”, with damages awarded “only if the reparation measures were impossible or insufficient”.
The Court, however, did order the State to pay symbolic compensation of €1 to each of the organisations for the moral prejudice as the failure to honour its climate commitments was “detrimental to the collective interest”.
The Court will wait two months before deciding whether to order the government take steps to address emissions.
Click here for the decision in French.