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Commune de Grande-Synthe v. France

Jurisdiction: France

Principle law(s): Law no. 2019-1147 on Energy and the climate

Side A: Commune de Grande-Synthe (Government)

Side B: France (Government)

Core objectives: Whether the French government's failure to take further action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions violates domestic and international law

On January 23, 2019, the municipality of Grande-Synthe sued the French government for insufficient action on climate change. The suit was filed in the Conseil d'Etat, the highest administrative court in France. According to an English summary of the case provided by the plaintiffs, the suit alleges that the French government's failure to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions violates domestic and international law, including the European Convention on Human Rights, the Paris Agreement, the French Environmental Code, and the French Environmental Charter. Plaintiffs stress that particular vulnerability of Grande-Synthe to the impacts of climate change as a low-lying coastal municipality exposed to sea level rise and flooding. According to the plaintiffs' case summary, Grande-Synthe asks the Conseil d'Etat to direct the government to take legislative and regulatory measures to prioritize action on climate change and to prohibit actions that would increase greenhouse gas emissions. This case is one of two filed in France during early 2019 against the French government for climate inaction and that follows logic set by the 2018 Urgenda decision in the Netherlands. The other case, Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. France, was filed by nonprofit organisations.

On November 19, 2020, the Conseil d'Etat ruled that the case was admissible and instructed the government to justify, within three months, that it was taking adequate actions towards meeting its own 2030 climate goals. According to press release by the Court, the coastal communities' claims are admissible in part because the city is "particularly exposed to the effects of climate change." The Court also accepted interventions by NGOs and other interested cities. The Court then noted that France committed itself to a 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and instructed the government to justify its ability to meet this goal without stricter measures. Although the Court signaled the decision would be driven by French and European law and not the Paris Agreement, the Court reasoned that the Paris Agreement must be considered in the interpretation of national law.

The Council d'Etat issued a decision on July 1, 2021 ordering the government to "take all the measures necessary" by the end of March 2022 to bend the curve of greenhouse gas emissions to meet climate goals, including a 40% reduction by 2030. The Court annulled the government's implicit refusal to take necessary measures, noting that the emissions decreases in 2019 and 2020 were not enough to ensure compliance with the required climate goals, and current climate regulations were insufficient to meet the target. The Council ordered the government to take the necessary measures by March 31, 2022.
Case documents

Related laws and policies
  • FRA flag This law implements France legislation
    Law no. 2019-1147 on Energy and the climate

    Passed in 2019 Legislative

    This law is France's framework document on climate and energy matters. The law notably enshrines into law the objective of carbon neutrality for 2050 and sets a number of quantified objectives for the energy sector. It is an extensive document amending the Energy Code, the Environment Code, the G...

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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