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The Council of State on Thursday called on the government to take additional measures within nine months to meet its commitments to fight climate change. This decision follows the complaint of the city of Grande-Synthe, in the North, which considers itself threatened by the rising waters.
The French government will have to take within nine months “all useful measures” to fight against greenhouse gases, ordered Thursday 1er July, the Council of State – the highest French administrative court – in an unprecedented decision.
Seized by the municipality of Grande-Synthe, the Council of State ruled in favor of this northern city which considers itself threatened by the rise in sea level, stressing that the current trajectories of France did not allow it to respect its commitments under the Paris Agreement.
He therefore ordered “the Prime Minister to take all useful measures allowing to bend the curve of greenhouse gas emissions (…) in order to ensure its compatibility with the objectives”, that is to say a reduction of 40% of ‘by 2030 compared to 1990.
The government has until March 31, in the midst of the presidential campaign, to review its copy. And if the judges consider the measures still insufficient, the Council may impose a financial penalty.
This rather long process will not succeed before the presidential election, but will give arguments to the critics of Emmanuel Macron’s record in the matter.
The decision, unprecedented in France, comes just after the High Council for the Climate (HCC) once again estimated in its annual report that “current efforts are insufficient to guarantee the achievement of the objectives” of France. This decision comes despite a drop in emissions in France of 1.9% in 2019 and estimated at 9.2% in 2020, an exceptional figure due to the shutdown of the economy by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Not seriously contested”
The trajectory will be all the more difficult to respect as the European Union is preparing to revise its objectives upwards with expected repercussions for France, underlines the HCC, an independent body created by Emmanuel Macron to assess the country’s climate policy. .
A finding “not seriously contested” by the government, write the judges.
In a press release, Matignon “took note” of the decision and “reiterated its determination to strengthen its climate action”. In particular by quickly applying the climate-resilience law under discussion in Parliament “once” it has been adopted, by a “strong commitment” at the EU level, of which Paris will assume the presidency in early 2022, or by the continuation of transition aid, for example for the purchase of clean vehicles.
There is in Thursday’s decision “a form of recognition of things that have been done, but are not sufficient and will have to be completed,” said Matignon.
As for the expiry of the deadline shortly before the presidential election (expected on April 10 and 24), the Minister of Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili does not see it as malicious. “That it is part of the political debate, that all actors and all sectors take up this subject, it is extremely important,” she told the press on the sidelines of a trip.
Several legal disputes against the State in climate matters
“It’s a historic day,” reacted for his part the lawyer of Grande-Synthe, the former Minister of Ecology Corinne Lepage. The judgment “recognizes with absolute certainty that the efforts currently being made are grossly insufficient,” she said.
“The noose is tightening around the State,” commented Celia Gautier, spokesperson for the Affair of the Century, a coalition of four NGOs which had joined the action of Grande-Synthe and continues also the State for “climate inaction” in another procedure. Supported by a petition signed by more than 2.3 million people, in February they obtained a first conviction from the State, found responsible for failures in the fight against global warming.
Environmental activists have deployed a new climate legal litigation strategy in recent years, and the first decisions in the matter have been falling in recent months, to the detriment of the state.
The Dutch and German courts have also recently ordered an increase in the climate ambitions of their respective states. What was quickly done in Germany.
The French plaintiffs are already worried that this will not be the case. “We are going to keep an eye on the grain,” promises Me Lepage. While Celia Gautier urges the government to stop “choosing denial (…) and the posture of the ostrich”.