Activists attempt to convict French state for lack of climate action

In what could become a historic court case of global significance, eco activists and NGOs in Paris are seeking conviction of the French state for its ‘inadequate’ action to combat climate change.

A court in Paris will this week hear a landmark case accusing the French government of taking inadequate action to combat climate change.

Brought forth two years ago by four climate NGOs, including Greenpeace France, Oxfam France, Notre Affaire à Tous, and Nicolas Hulot, an official complaint was lodged against the French government for insufficient action to lower national emissions.

Unfortunately, the plaintiffs’ case slowly lost the momentum required to stir up government discussion and secure a hearing at the Supreme Court in the Capital.

During that quiet period, organisers put up an online petition demanding a proper inquest into the state’s progress (or alleged lack thereof) in reaching the goals set out by the Paris agreement.

Suffice to say, levels of support were big.

Backed by over 2.3 million signatures – which marks a national record, according to organisers – the French administration must now face allegations that the state continues to exceed carbon budgets, and is failing to make good on promises of energy efficient renovations, as well as developing means of renewable energy. Chiefly, campaigners see current efforts towards the goal of reducing 40% of emissions by 2030 as farcical.

While we’ve yet to hear the specifics of the case beyond these central points, the overarching sentiment from campaigners is that the government’s lack of action is having a ‘serious impact on the daily quality of life and health of people in France.’

Described by Marie Toussaint, a senior member of the European Parliament, as potentially ‘the affair of the century,’ a full-scale hearing is finally underway, and is set to continue throughout the next 15 days or so. In response to years of radio silence from the French government, climate activists queued up outside the tribunal and laid out a huge banner that read ‘We are 2.3 million,’ in a state of defiance.

Upon winning the first part of the battle (in having citizenry concern be heard at all) the Director of Greenpeace France Jean-François Julliard stated, ‘Greenhouse gas emissions under this government’s five-year term dropped at a pace that was twice as slow as the trajectories foreseen under the law. We are full of hope for this hearing and the decision that will follow.’

On our current trajectory re emission reduction efforts, the planet is worryingly set to warm by 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, at least according to a non-profit analytics group called Climate Action Tracker. New research suggests that the Earth’s natural ecosystems may be able to stabilise global warming quicker than initially believed, but reaffirmed that reaching net zero is impossible without us lowering our emission dump significantly.

So you see, it’s not all completely doom and gloom. In recent years citizenry action against government and corporate interests has become increasingly common where sustainability is concerned, and on a global scale too. In 2019 alone lawsuits were launched in as many as 28 countries, according to the London School of Economics, with over 1000 cases filed in the US alone.

If there’s one positive to take away from this story, it’s that people are finally waking up to the notion that no battle is too big to win. Stay tuned for the outcome in Paris.


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