All questions

Climate change

According to case law, the state's obligation contained in Article L. 229-1 of the Environmental Code is not mandatory (judgment Commune de Heidwiller of 21 June 2007, sentenced by the Nancy Administrative Court of Appeal).

From a purely contentious point of view, the association Notre Affaire à Tous has set itself the mission of acting for climate justice in France, particularly through the petition filed in autumn 2017 to hold the French state liable for faulty failure to act in the fight against climate change. As a result, the areas of competence assigned to local authorities could be strengthened in this matter. For example, under Article L. 121-1 of the Urban Planning Code, the law should encourage the need to preserve air quality to allow elected officials to promote in their policies the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The prefects, mayors or the president of the general council would risk being held responsible if they did not intervene when the populations of their locality are endangered.

Further, Article 173 of Law No. 2015-94 of 17 August 2015 on the energy transition contains obligations for companies to monitor and control measures to combat global warming; to our deepest regret, the government is struggling to make a real application of all said texts.

The fight against climate change is the subject of joint action by European countries. The integration of the environment into the policies of the European Union dates back to a meeting of the Paris European Council in October 1972. Since 1973, the need to create a multi-annual action programme in the field of the environment has been realised. In this respect, the Seventh Programme for the years 2013 to 2020 under Article 192(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union was established, which sets out the priority objectives to be achieved in terms of environmental protection. This programme aims, inter alia, to 'ensure investment in support of environmental and climate policies and combat environmental externalities' and to 'increase the Union's effectiveness in tackling international environmental and climate problems'. It was not until the 1987 Single European Act that the first legal basis for the European Union's environmental policy was established. Then, the following treaties maintained the spirit of this commitment: the 1992 Maastricht Treaty and the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty. But it was through the 2007 Lisbon Treaty that climate change became a full-fledged objective of the European Union's policies.

The European Union has set itself the goal of devoting 20 per cent of its 2014 to 2020 budget to the fight against climate change (i.e., €180 billion). Member States have committed to reduce their GHG emissions by 20 per cent for the second period (2013 to 2020) compared to 1990. Since 2005, the European Union has adopted its main tool for carrying out its climate policy, the Emissions Trading Scheme, which encourages the reduction of the volume of greenhouse gases emitted by the industrial sector. Recently, to combat climate change by 2030, the European Union has set itself the target of reduction emissions by 40 per cent from 1990 levels, and has committed to increase energy efficiency by at least 27 per cent as well as promote renewable energy. In the long term, by 2050, the European Union intends to reduce its emissions by between 80 and 95 per cent compared to 1990.

To integrate the objectives of the Kyoto Protocol, France adopted the Climate Plan in 2004, which provides the possibility for local authorities to establish territorial climate-energy plans, which have become plans under Article L. 229-26 of the Environmental Code resulting from the law on energy transition for green growth. According to Article R. 229-51 of the Environmental Code, this plan 'includes a diagnosis, a territorial strategy, an action programme and a monitoring and evaluation system'. The decree of 4 August 2016 on the Climate-Energy Territorial Plan establishes the list of atmospheric pollutants, namely nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter PM10 and PM2.5, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) defined in I of Article R. 221-1 of the Environmental Code, as well as sulphur dioxide (SO2) and ammonia (NH3) and the sectors of activity to be taken into account by the authorities concerned. Finally, this decree defines the address of the IT platform on which the territorial climate-air-energy plans must be transmitted and published, as well as the data to be provided, and, depending on the categories of users, the access restrictions necessary to protect the confidentiality of personal data.

In its five-year climate plan report presented in July 2018, France has acknowledged its delay in meeting its greenhouse gas emission-reduction targets. The National Low Carbon Strategy for the period 2014 to 2018 has set at a target of 440 MtCO2 (metric tons of carbon dioxide), but could reach 458 MtCO2 by the end of 2018. France aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 and claims to champion the transition to a fossil fuel-free economy.