French state convicted for failure to address climate crisis
State found guilty of ‘non-respect of its engagements’ aimed at fighting global warming
3 February 2021 — A Paris court has convicted the French state of failing to address the climate crisis and not keeping its promises to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.
The legal case was brought by four French environmental groups after a petition signed by 2.3 million people.
“This is an historic win for climate justice. The decision not only takes into consideration what scientists say and what people want from French public policies, but it should also inspire people all over the world to hold their governments accountable for climate change in their courts,” said Jean-François Julliard, the executive director of Greenpeace France, one of the plaintiffs.
“It’s a victory for all the people who are already facing the devastating impact of the climate crisis that our leaders fail to tackle. The time has come for justice,” said Cécilia Rinaudo, the director of Notre Affaire à Tous (It’s Everyone’s Business), another plaintiff.
The court ruled that the applicants were entitled to seek compensation in kind for the “ecological damage caused by France’s failure to comply with the targets it had set for reducing greenhouse gas emissions”. It said this needed further investigation and gave the state two months to respond.
The Paris agreement signed five years ago aimed to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels. Environmental experts say governments, including the French administration, have failed to meet their commitments.
The French government has pledged to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
NGOs say 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 this is having a serious impact on the daily quality of life and health of people in France.
In a written defence
The French government rejected accusations of inaction and asked the court to throw out any claim for compensation. It argued that the state could not be held uniquely responsible for climate change when it was not responsible for all global emissions.
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Aerial view of Pioneer and Crescent Halls (image courtesy of NTU and RSP Planners and Engineers (Pte) Ltd)
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