France: the French state sued for climate inaction

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Paris | Is the French State at fault in the fight against global warming? Four associations, with the support of more than two million citizens, took him to court on Thursday, hoping to see his failure recognized.

Two years after the launch of this procedure, supported by 2.3 million signatories of an unprecedented online petition, “The Affair of the Century” arrives before the administrative tribunal of Paris, a key step for defenders of the environment and the four requesting NGOs – Notre Affaire à tous, Greenpeace France, Fondation Nicolas Hulot and Oxfam France.

And to reiterate the unprecedented support of citizens who signed the petition, a giant poster was installed Thursday morning on the ground on the banks of the Seine proclaiming: “We are 2.3 million”.

“If the Case of the Century wins, it would be a historic decision for climate justice in France. That would put the politician in front of its ecological contradictions: a lot of speeches and very few acts ”, indicates to AFP Cécilia Rinaudo, coordinator of Notre Affaire à tous.

“The condemnation of a State for climate inaction would be historic, and not only in France”, continues Cécile Duflot, Executive Director of Oxfam France, stressing the parallel with the Urgenda affair, which has become the model for the recent rise in power of climate justice.

In December 2019, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ordered the Dutch government to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020.

But a final decision from the French justice is not expected in the short term.

On Thursday, the conclusions of the public protractor, of which the parties have received an overview, will be listened to with attention, but not necessarily followed by the court.

“We are optimistic on reading the meaning of the rapporteur’s conclusions”, assures Cécilia Rinaudo.

According to corroborating sources, it should seek recognition of a failure of the State to meet its own commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Not a sole”

The government rejects accusations of inaction. It highlights in particular the energy-climate law of 2019 which “reinforces climate objectives” by aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050 or a 40% reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels by 2030.

But in November, the Council of State, in a decision described as “historic” by defenders of the planet, itself noted that France, despite its commitment to reduce its emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990, had exceeded the carbon budgets it had set for itself.

And the highest French administrative court, seized by the municipality of Grande-Synthe, which considers itself threatened with submersion on the northern coast, has given the State three months to justify its actions in terms of reducing CO2 emissions. .

This decision, which is in addition to that of the same jurisdiction which in July gave the state six months to act against air pollution on pain of a record penalty, encourages environmental activists.

“We can clearly see that there is a hardening of tone of French justice towards the State when it does not respect its own commitments, and behind, the right of the populations to live in a healthy environment”, indicates to AFP Marie Toussaint, co-founder of Notre Affaire à tous, now environmentalist MEP.

The NGOs, which will mobilize their activists online Thursday for lack of being able to bring them to court, also hope that a victory in court could change the political balance of power at a time when a bill that they believe is largely below the mark. stake, must soon be presented to the Council of Ministers.

“We hope for a start,” comments Cécile Duflot. “Our deep desire is not to condemn the State, it is for the State to act”, assures the former minister to AFP.

And regardless of the decision of the court at first instance, then on appeal possibly, “there is a real movement around The Affair of the Century, which will not let go of the State of a sole”, promises Jean -François Julliard, director of Greenpeace France.

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