French Court Holds Government Responsible for Inaction On Climate Change

On Wednesday, the Paris Administrative Court held that the French state was ‘responsible’ for failing to take appropriate steps to stop climate change and for failing to meet its greenhouse gas emission goals.

This judgment is the result of an appeal in May 2019 by four NGOs, namely Oxfam France, Notre Affaire à tous, Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme and Greenpeace France, to the Administrative Court of Paris. The plaintiffs were seeking a court order recognizing the French Republic’s inability to tackle climate change and to reach its own greenhouse gas emission goals. Furthermore, the plaintiffs had demanded an injunction to force the state to restore the ecological harm caused by its inaction.In deciding if the French State had failed to meet its obligations, the Court ruled that the State could be held liable for part of the damages only if it had not complied with its obligations to minimize its emissions of greenhouse gases.

The court also provided the French State with a two-month pause in investigating the damages incurred by the failure to comply with its emissions goal, during which the court would have decided whether it was appropriate to take the necessary steps to compel the French State to comply. The plaintiffs were also given a total of EUR 1 as moral damages in the light of the prejudice caused to the common interest of the four NGOs by the deficiencies of the French State.

This decision of the Administrative Court of Paris follows another similar decision made by the Council of State, the Supreme Administrative Court of France, in which a three-month extension was allocated to the French State in order to provide the Court with adequate evidence to prove that its greenhouse gas emission goals were being met.

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