French court orders government to cut emissions

The French administrative court of Paris Thursday ordered the government to do more to tackle climate change.

The court said France overshot the greenhouse gas emissions cap set by its first national carbon budget in 2015-2018, which caused “ecological damage.” It ordered the government to cut emissions by an additional 15 million tons of CO2 equivalent by December 31, 2022.

The court left it up to the government to decide how to hit that target.

Thursday’s ruling follows a February decision finding that France had violated the pledge it made under the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb emissions and fight climate change.

“What this decision says is that the state is under the strict scrutiny of the justice system and that France will have to follow its greenhouse gas reduction trajectory” or else be sanctioned, said Cécilia Rinaudo, director general of the NGO Notre Affaire à Tous.

The case was brought by a group of NGOs — Oxfam France, Notre Affaire à Tous, Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme and Greenpeace France — in 2019 and supported by more than 2 million petition signatories.

If the government doesn’t cut emissions on time and by the prescribed amount, the judge can “follow-up and there will be fines to repair the ecological damage … and respect the carbon budget,” said Arié Alimi, one of the lawyers representing the NGOs.

The government can appeal the decision but doing so won’t remove its obligation to act.

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