The French state failed to take sufficient action to fight climate change, a court has ruled in a case brought by a group of non-governmental organisations (NGO).
The Paris administrative court, in its ruling, recognised ecological damage linked to climate change and held the French state responsible for failing to fully meet its goals in reducing greenhouse gases.
President Emmanuel Macron, who has been vocal about his support for climate change action, pushed in December to beef up the European Union’s 2030 targets to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 55% compared with 1990 levels — up from the previous 40% target.
But Oxfam France, Greenpeace France and two other organisations say Mr Macron’s lobbying for global climate action is not backed up by sufficient domestic measures to curb emissions blamed for global warming.
France is missing its national targets that had been set under the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb climate change, and the country has delayed most of its efforts until after 2020.
The court ruled there was a link between ecological damage and deficiencies by the state in respecting its own goals.
It decided that awarding money was not appropriate in this case. Instead, reparations should centre on fixing the failure to respect goals for lowering greenhouse gases.
The four NGOs who brought the case called the decision “a first historic victory for the climate” as well as a “victory for truth”, saying that until now France had denied the “insufficiency of its climate policies”.
The court gave itself two months to decide on measures to repair the problem and stop it from getting worse.
But it did ask the French state to pay each of the four organisations bringing the action a symbolic euro each, a common practice in France.
The government said in a statement that it “took note” of the decision, and provided a list of actions in the pipeline to “allow France to respect in the future the objectives it set”.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal went further, acknowledging that the country had fallen behind on its goals.
“It’s perfectly fair to say that our country has been lagging behind these past years in the fight against climate change,” he said.
But he added that “we are tackling these issues”.
Among other things, he cited 30 billion euro (£26 billion) earmarked for greener energy policies.