NGOs aim to sue France over emissions
More than 1.7 million people have signed an online petition launched last week calling for the French government to face prosecution for not doing enough to fight climate change, while thousands of protesters (pictured) opposed fuel tax rises.
Greenpeace, Oxfam and two French environmental groups launched the petition and received support from French film stars Marion Cotillard and Juliette Binoche.
Online public support is just one aspect of a preliminary lawsuit the NGOs filed last week, urging the French courts to force ministers to cut emissions.
To win the case, the groups would need to prove that the French authorities acted against the environmental interest and public health by not complying with its own climate change targets.
“The more we are, the harder it will be for the government to ignore us,” said Greenpeace director Jean-François Julliard.
“What we want, in the end, is that a court ruling requires France to do more in its fight against climate change [with] a binding decision.”
French President Emmanuel Macron last month tried to raise fuel taxes to help move France away from fossil fuels and the country was promptly crippled by nationwide rioting that forced a U-turn.
The six weeks of “yellow vest” near-anarchy will be used in numerous western capitals as a reason to avoid imposing environmental taxes.
Macron agreed to scrap the tax rise, despite its goal of helping France meet targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030.
The NGOs are taking inspiration from other countries.
A similar legal campaign in the Netherlands was successful, with an appeals court ruling in October that the authorities must do more to reduce emissions. Similar court cases are being planned in the UK, Norway, New Zealand and Uganda.
The Dutch case took two years but Julliard said it was hoped the French judiciary would move faster.
In October, the government in the Netherlands lost an appeal against a ruling which ordered it to cut greenhouse gases by at least 25 per cent by 2020.
The environmental rights group, Urgenda, took the case on behalf of around 900 Dutch citizens who accused the authorities of doing too little to stop climate change.
German farmers filed a separate lawsuit along with Greenpeace after suffering damage to their crops and dairy farms during last summer’s record-breaking drought.
Paris burns. The six weeks of protests across France have weakened the political will to impose environmental policies. Picture credit: YouTube