The Conseil d’Etat court has ordered the state to pay two new 10-million-euro fines for failing to tackle air pollution in France. Despite some progress, the country’s major cities still exceed European air quality standards.

France will pay €20 million (US$19.7 million) for failing to tackle air pollution in big cities over the second half of 2021 and the first half of 2022. The order came on Monday from the country’s highest administrative court.

It is not the first time the European nation has found itself in this situation. The same court issued another €10 million fine last year for the same reason. Despite improvements since the first sanction was issued, the situation has not improved sufficiently – the Conseil d’Etat said, justifying its decision by reiterating “the seriousness of the consequences in terms of public health” and “the urgency that follows.”

In France alone, poor air quality leads to approximately 48,000 deaths every year. The situation is especially dire in France’s capital Paris, but other metropolitan areas such as Toulouse, Lyon, and Aix-Marseille also remain particularly at risk.

The main cause of air pollution in France is transportation, followed by industries and heating. The three combined make up over 95% of the nation’s carbon dioxide output, which in turn contribute to the higher levels of PM2.5 in the air.

Air pollution in France and in several other European Union member countries has been found to exceed the bloc’s air quality standards in recent years. France had already been ordered over five years ago that it had to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particles in major cities in order to comply with European standards. Meanwhile, Poland and Bulgaria have also been found in breach of EU air quality norms by the Court of Justice.

Under the European Green Deal’s Zero Pollution Action Plan, the European Commission set the 2030 goal of reducing the number of premature deaths caused by fine particulate matter (PM2.5) by at least 55% compared with 2005 levels as well as reducing by 25% the EU ecosystems where air pollution threatens biodiversity.

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