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French climate activists

Climate campaigners in France celebrated a court order requiring the French government to meet its climate commitments on October 14, 2021. (Photo: Notre Affaire à Tous/Twitter)

'Justice Is With Us!': Climate Groups Cheer French Court Order to Cut Emissions

"We owe this... to the unprecedented mobilization of the 2.3 million people who supported the Case of the Century."

Jessica Corbett

Climate campaigners across France celebrated Thursday after the administrative court of Paris ordered the French government to honor its commitments to cut planet-heating emissions and "repair the ecological damage for which it is responsible" by the end of next year.

The Case of the Century, or l'Affaire du Siècle, was launched three years ago by four advocacy groups: Oxfam France, Notre Affaire à Tous, Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme, and Greenpeace France.

"We won," tweeted Oxfam France executive director Cécile Duflot. "The state must not only make up for the delay but also repair the damage!"

Greenpeace, in a tweet, called the court's ruling "another significant step forward in the growing wave of climate litigation around the world."

The coalition behind the case also welcomed the development, noting that any future president who doesn't respect the country's climate commitments would not only expose the French people to "the increasingly devastating and costly impacts of climate change," but also risk additional court cases.

"From today forward, any slippage on the greenhouse gas reduction trajectory can be punished by the courts in the event of another delay," the coalition said. "The state now has an obligation to achieve results for the climate."

"We owe this necessary break with climate policy such as it is now to the judges who took up the climate issue and to the unprecedented mobilization of the 2.3 million people who supported the Case of the Century," they added, acknowledging signers of a related petition.

Supporters of the case gathered in Paris Thursday morning with large letters that read: "Climate: justice is with us!"

France—a signatory to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which aims to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100—has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and reach carbon neutrality by 2050. The court found that from 2015 to 2018, France overshot its national carbon budget by 15 million tons of CO2 equivalent, and ordered the government to make up for it by December 31, 2022.

The new ruling follows a February decision that found France was failing to meet its climate commitments. At the time, Oxfam's Duflot called the ruling a "historic victory" that "sets an important legal precedent" and expressed hope that the "breakthrough" would lead the courts to "compel the government to take further steps to reduce emissions and ensure that France is living up to its commitments," a wish that was fulfilled Thursday.

Agence France-Presse noted that the latest decision also comes after a July ruling in which "France's highest administrative court, the Council of State, ordered the government to take measures by March 31, 2022, to honor its commitments in terms of greenhouse gas reductions."

As Greenpeace France director Jean-Francois Julliard told journalists on Thursday: "Now the court system is becoming an ally in our fight against climate change."


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