Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. France, No. 1904967, 1904968, 1904972, 1904976/4-1, Paris Administrative Court (3 February 2021)

Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. France, No. 1904967, 1904968, 1904972, 1904976/4-1, Paris Administrative Court (3 February 2021)

Several organizations petitioned the Paris Administrative Court seeking orders requiring the government to take necessary actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperature increase under 1.5 degrees Celsius; reduce emissions to meet France’s own objectives as declared under several laws; adapt to the changing climate, and protect citizens’ lives and health from the risks of climate change. Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. France, No. 1904967, 1904968, 1904972, 1904976/4-1, Paris Administrative Court (3 February 2021) at sections I-IV. The organizations also requested symbolic monetary compensation for moral damage and ecological damage. Id.  

In reviewing the claims related to ecological damage, the Court explained that based on the information before it, including the latest IPCC report, anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of global warming, and that global warming has caused ecological damage. Id. at para. 16. The Court explained:

“The constant increase of the Earth’s average global temperature, which today has reached 1°C [1.8°F] compared to pre-industrial times, is caused primarily by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This increase, which is responsible for a change in the atmosphere and its ecological functions, has, notably, already caused accelerated melting of continental glaciers and permafrost as well as oceanic warming, resulting in sea level rise, which is [also] accelerating. This last phenomenon is combined with the increase, in frequency and severity, of extreme climate events, ocean acidification, and ecosystem damage, which all have grave and irreversible consequences on human activities such as fisheries and agriculture, as well as on water resources, which, combined, lead to an increasing risk of food insecurity, as well as degradation of water resources, human health, and economic growth. The reports also show that global warming will reach 1.5°C [2.7°F] between 2030 and 2052 if anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow at the current rate, and that even if emissions decrease, due to the persistence of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, these emissions will persist for many centuries, and [furthermore] the overall global warming of 2°C [3.6°F] instead of 1.5°C would gravely increase these different phenomena and their consequences. The studies also show that each additional half-degree [Celsius] of global warming will significantly increase associated risks, particularly for the most vulnerable ecosystems and populations, and that to limit warming to 1.5°C would require a 45% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as compared to 2010 emission levels, and the achievement of carbon neutrality by 2050.”

Id., unofficial translation.[1]  

After reviewing France’s obligations under the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement and related European Union decisions, as well as provisions of France’s Charte de l’environnement [Environmental Charter], the Court found that France chose to commit to these international obligations. Id. at paras. 18-21. However, the Court subsequently dismisses the claims that the government’s actions to improve energy efficiency or increase renewable energy have been insufficient to meet these general obligations. Id. at paras. 23-28.

The Court found the State failed to meet specific targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that it set for itself by law under an EU regulation. Id. at paras. 29-30. The Court recognized that the possibility that the State might meet future targets including becoming carbon neutral by 2050 did not exonerate it from failing to achieve an earlier target. Id. at paras. 29-31. The Court explained:

“The possibility that the State could meet its objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in 2030 as compared to 1990 emission levels and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 does not exonerate the State of liability, since in failing to meet the targets it has fixed, additional greenhouse gas emissions are created, which accumulate with preceding emissions and produce effects throughout the approximately 100-year lifetime of these gases in the atmosphere, thus aggravating the ecological damage in question.”

Id. at para. 31, unofficial translation. [2]

The Court found that the State’s failure to meet its climate change commitments undermined the work of the organizations that filed the petition and awarded the requested symbolic payment of one Euro to each petitioner as compensation for moral damages. Id. at para. 42-45, Article 3.

However, the Court refused the petitioners’ request for compensation for ecological damage, for two reasons. First, the civil code provisions governing ecological damage only allow for monetary compensation when reparation is impossible or insufficient, and the petitioners did not demonstrate the government could not rectify the ecological damage in question. Id. at paras. 35-37.

The Court deferred its decision on whether to issue injunctive relief until all parties had more information from the government. Id. at para. 39, Article 4. The Court ordered two agencies to circulate their reports within two months. Id.

A follow-up decision from the court is anticipated.

 

[1] Original text: “[L]’augmentation constante de la température globale moyenne de la Terre, qui a atteint aujourd’hui 1°C par rapport à l’époque préindustrielle, est due principalement aux émissions de gaz à effet de serre d’origine anthropique. Cette augmentation, responsable d’une modification de l’atmosphère et de ses fonctions écologiques, a déjà provoqué notamment l’accélération de la fonte des glaces continentales et du pergélisol et le réchauffement des océans, qui ont pour conséquence l’élévation du niveau de la mer, qui est en voie d’accélération. Ce dernier phénomène se combine avec l’augmentation, en fréquence et en gravité, des phénomènes climatiques extrêmes, l’acidification des océans et l’atteinte des écosystèmes, qui ont des conséquences graves et irréversibles sur les activités humaines telles que la pêche et les cultures, ainsi que sur les ressources en eau, et entraînent des risques croissants d’insécurité alimentaire et de dégradation des ressources en eau, de la santé humaine et de la croissance économique. Il résulte également de ces rapports que ce réchauffement global atteindra 1,5°C entre 2030 et 2052 si les émissions anthropiques de gaz à effet de serre continuent d’augmenter au rythme actuel et qu’il persistera pendant plusieurs siècles, même si ces émissions diminuent, en raison de la persistance dans l’atmosphère des gaz à effet de serre, et qu’un réchauffement de 2°C plutôt qu’1,5°C augmenterait gravement ces différents phénomènes et leurs conséquences. Il résulte encore de ces travaux que chaque demi-degré de réchauffement global supplémentaire renforce très significativement les risques associés, en particulier pour les écosystèmes et les populations les plus vulnérables, et qu’une limitation de ce réchauffement à 1,5°C nécessite de réduire, d’ici à 2030, les émissions de gaz à effet de serre de 45 % par rapport à 2010 et d’atteindre la neutralité carbone au plus tard en 2050."

[2] Original text: “[L]a circonstance que l’État pourrait atteindre les objectifs de réduction des émissions de gaz à effet de serre de 40 % en 2030 par rapport à leur niveau de 1990 et de neutralité carbone à l’horizon 2050 n’est pas de nature à l’exonérer de sa responsabilité dès lors que le non-respect de la trajectoire qu’il s’est fixée pour atteindre ces objectifs engendre des émissions supplémentaires de gaz à effet de serre, qui se cumuleront avec les précédentes et produiront des effets pendant toute la durée de vie de ces gaz dans l’atmosphère, soit environ 100 ans, aggravant ainsi le préjudice écologique invoqué.”

Los archivos adjuntos: 
Fecha del Recurso: 
2021
Countries and Regions: Europa Occidental Francia
Resource Type: Casos
Resource Topic: Cambio Climatico Pivotal cases Greenhouse gases United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Content for Websites: 
Climate 
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