A Paris court has found the French government guilty of failing to cut emissions in line with its Paris Agreement target, in what is the country’s first major climate trial. The court ordered the government to pay a symbolic €1 fine to the four environmental groups that brought the case after France exceeded its 2015-2018 carbon budget, in a move described as a “historic victory for the climate.”
What is Happening?
- The court will return in the coming months to decide whether to order the government to take more stringent carbon-cutting measures, giving ministers two months to show their plans to address climate change in France.
- Former Green Party leader and cabinet minister, Cécile Duflot, now the head of Oxfam France, one of the four NGOs that brought the case, called the ruling “a historic victory for climate justice. “This sets an important legal precedent and can be used by people affected by the climate crisis to defend their rights,” she added.
- Oxfam France was joined by Greenpeace France and two French environmental groups in bringing the case against the government. In 2019, they organised a petition to denounce what they called “climate inaction” by the French state. In a month they gathered two million signatures, and in March 2019 they filed the lawsuit.
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- France exceeded its 2015-2018 carbon budget by 4%, emitting over 19 million tons of CO2 equivalent a year more than planned. When signing the Paris Agreement, France committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels by 2030, and to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. However, last year, France decided to defer that commitment.
- The French government issued a statement that it had “taken note” of the court’s decision, acknowledging that initial objectives had not been achieved. It also promised that a new bill to address the climate would be debated in parliament next month, which would constitute a “new and decisive step in accelerating France’s ecological transition.”
- The number of climate litigation cases worldwide has nearly doubled since 2017, according to a recent report by the UN Environment Programme– In 2017 there were 884 cases brought in 24 countries. As of 1 July 2020, the number of cases has nearly doubled with at least 1,550 climate change cases filed in 38 countries.
- In December 2019, the Dutch supreme court ordered its government to strengthen its 2020 emissions target, in a case brought by Urgenda. In July 2020, the Irish supreme court ruled that the government’s climate plan was not clear in laying out how the country would meet its 2050 climate targets and in Belgium, environmentalists have launched a similar case, pressuring the government to develop a clearer, more detailed plan. The case will be heard on March 16.
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