France

Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. France

Jurisdiction: Administrative Court of Paris


Principle law(s): 2020 Climate and Energy Package (contains Directive 2009/29/EC, Directive 2009/28/EC, Directive 2009/31/EC and Decision No. 406/2009/EC of the Parliament and the Council ; see below)


Side A: Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme (Ngo)


Side A: Greenpeace France (Ngo)


Side A: Notre Affaire à Tous (Ngo)


Side A: Oxfam France (Ngo)


Side B: France (Government)


Core objectives:

Whether the French government’s failure to take further action on climate change violates a statutory duty to act under domestic and international law


Summary
On December 17, 2018, four nonprofits sent a “lettre préalable indemnitaire” (letter of formal notice) to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and 12 members of the French government, initiating the first stage in a legal proceeding against the French government for inadequate action on climate change. This type of letter is part of a legal proceeding known as “recours en carence fautive” (action for failure to act). The plaintiffs allege that the French government’s failure to implement proper measures to effectively address climate change violated a statutory duty to act. The four plaintiff groups are Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme (FNH), Greenpeace France, Notre Affaire à Tous and Oxfam France. In their press release, they describe the lawsuit as challenging the state's inaction on climate change and failure to meet its own goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing renewable energy, and limiting energy consumption.

On February 15, 2019, the French government rejected the plaintiffs' request. On March 14, 2019, the plaintiffs initiated the lawsuit by filing a "summary request" before the Administrative Court of Paris. The plaintiffs request that the State of France be enjoined to remedy its inadequate action on climate change. Specifically, they request the court to order France to: 

1. Take proper measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere - in due proportion considering global emissions, and taking into account the particular responsibility accepted by developed countries - at a level compatible with the objective to contain the rise of the average temperature of the planet below the threshold of 1.5 °C compared to pre-industrial levels;
2. Take, at least, all necessary measures to achieve France's targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing renewable energies and increasing energy efficiency;
3. Take the necessary measures to adapt the national territory to the effects of climate change;
4. Take the necessary measures to protect citizens’ lives and health from the risks of climate change. 

They further request compensation for the damages suffered as a result of the State’s failure to tackle climate change to be paid as “the symbolic sum of 1 euro for their moral prejudice.” 

According to a translation of the legal request, plaintiffs argue that the government has both general and specific legal duties to act on climate change. Its general duties stem from 1) the French Charter for the Environment (“the Charter”), the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECPHR), and 3) the general principle of law providing the right of every person to live in a preserved climate system. Under the Charter, plaintiffs point to citizens’ constitutional rights to live in a healthy and ecologically balanced environment and argue the government has a duty of care to “take all necessary measures to identify, avoid, reduce and compensate the consequences of climate change.” Like other recent international cases, they point to further obligations of the state to act on climate change to uphold the rights guaranteed under Articles 2 & 8 of the ECPHR, respectively “the right to life” and the “right to respect for private and family life.” They argue that these rights require States “to implement a legislative and regulatory framework and to adopt practical measures meant to fight efficiently against climate change.” 

Plaintiffs further base their claims on a “general principle of law” providing a right to a “preserved climate system” which they argue stems from national law (such as the preamble of the Charter for the Environment, article L. 110-1 of the French Environment Code, etc.) and international law (the Stockholm Declaration, the World Charter for Nature, the Rio Declaration, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto protocol, the Paris Agreement, the Climate action and renewable energy package for 2020, the Decision n°406/2009/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council dated 23 April 2009). Plaintiffs additionally argue the State has further “specific” obligations to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions under EU and national law as well as specific obligations to take action to prepare for the impacts of climate change on France.

On June 26th, 2020, the ministry for the ecological transition asked the administrative court's judge to dismiss the request. According to the plaintiffs, the government asserted that it was taking action to address greenhouse gas emissions, and that the time has not elapsed for it to meet its 2020 goals. The government's response will be posted when it becomes available.
Case documents

Related laws and policies
  • This law implements European Union legislation
    2020 Climate and Energy Package (contains Directive 2009/29/EC, Directive 2009/28/EC, Directive 2009/31/EC and Decision No. 406/2009/EC of the Parliament and the Council ; see below)

    Passed in 2009 Legislative

    In 2007 EU leaders endorsed an integrated approach to climate and energy policy that aims to combat climate change and increase energy security while strengthening its competitiveness. In 2008 the European Commission proposed binding legislation to implement the 20-20-20 targets. This 'climate and energy package' became law in 2009. The core of the package comprises four pieces of complementary legislation. The 20-20-20 targets include:
    • Reduction of EU GHG emissions by at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020
    • 20% of EU energy consumption to come from renewable resources by 2020
    • 20% reduction in primary energy use compared with projected levels, by improving energy efficiency

    The EU committed to increase its emissions reduction to 30% by 2020, on condition that other major emitting countries commit to do their fair share under a global climate agreement. Member States will limit GHG emissions between 2013 and 2020 according to a linear trajectory with binding annual targets. This will ensure a gradual move towards the 2020 targets in sectors where changes take time to implement, such as buildings, infrastructure and transportation. To increase the cost-effectiveness of policies and measures, Member States are allowed to deviate from the linear trajectory to a certain degree. The Renewable Energy Directive sets the following targets:
    • At least 10% share of renewables in final energy consumption in the transportation sector by 2020
    • The biofuels and bio-liquids should contribute to a reduction of at least 35% of GHG emissions in order to be recognised. From 2017, their share in emissions savings should be increased to 50 % It further commissions an assessment of the inclusion of emissions and removals related to LULUCF - anticipated to follow up on any international agreement on forestry, deforestation and sustainability criteria. The Directive 2009/28/EC of 23 April 2009 in particular promotes the use of energy from renewable sources, amends and subsequently repeals Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC.

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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