Supreme Court gives France three months to show its climate efforts

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PARIS – In a decision hailed as “historic” by environmental activists, the highest French administrative court on Thursday gave the government a three-month deadline to show that it is taking measures to respect its commitments on global warming. The French government, which negotiated the historic 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, was dragged to the Council of State by Grande-Synthe, a low-lying coastal town in the north particularly exposed to the effects of climate change.

The Council, which rules on disputes relating to public policies, declared that “while France has committed to reducing its emissions by 40% in 2030 compared to 1990 levels, it has, in recent years, regularly exceeded “Carbon budgets” that it had set for itself. himself. ”

He also noted that the government of President Emmanuel Macron had, in an April decree, at the height of the first wave of COVID-19 infections, postponed much of the reduction efforts beyond 2020.

Before deciding definitively on the question, the Council gave the government three months to justify “how its refusal to take additional measures is compatible with respecting the reduction path chosen to achieve the objectives set for 2030”.

Corinne Lepage, former Minister of the Environment and lawyer for the city of Grande-Synthe, hailed this decision as “historic”.

The decision means that “policies must be more than beautiful commitments on paper,” she said.

Far from the track

Despite Macron’s promise in 2017 to “make our planet great again” – a boost to US President Donald Trump, a global warming denier, and his promise to “make America great again” – France is far away to respect its commitments under the 2015 treaty.

The French High Climate Council, an independent body tasked with advising the government on how to reduce carbon emissions, said in a report this year that emissions were only down 0.9% in 2019.

This left France “far from the annual 3% reduction expected from 2025 to stay on the path to carbon neutrality,” he said.

In January 2019, Damien Careme, then mayor of the Greens of Grande-Synthe, petitioned the Council of State for what he called the government’s “climate inaction”.

Careme said his town of 23,000, which is built on land reclaimed from the sea, was at risk of being inundated by rising sea levels.

The city’s case was supported by the cities of Paris and Grenoble, as well as by several environmental NGOs including Oxfam France, Greenpeace France and L’Affaire du Siècle (Le cas du siècle).

Welcoming Thursday’s decision, Greenpeace and L’Affaire du Siècle called it a “historic breakthrough for the environment”, noting that France’s climate targets and its path to achieving them had “become binding”.

Macron’s centrist government did not immediately react to the decision.

In 2018, popular climate activist Nicolas Hulot resigned as environment minister for Maron over what he saw as the president’s failure to aggressively pursue green initiatives.

CLIMATE JUSTICE

The case is the latest in a series taken by climate activists against governments around the world.

A rare occurrence on the part of the Council of State, reflecting the worldwide interest in the issue, it published its decision in French and English.

The move comes as campaigners warn that the drop in emissions seen in many major economies in 2019 risked being offset by new investments in fossil fuels in countries aiming to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 Climate Transparency Report, compiled by 14 think tanks and NGOs, said that ‘by providing unconditional support for fossil fuels, government stimulus responses risk reversing, rather than locking in, positive trends. pre-COVID ”.

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