The Administrative Tribunal in Paris ruled this week that France failed to live up to its promise of reducing greenhouse gases under commitments made in the 2015 Paris Agreement, declaring that France was “responsible for ecological damage.”
Several environmental groups were responsible for the case heading to court in the first place. Oxfam France, Greenpeace France, “It’s Everyone’s Business”, a French-based environmental group, and “The Foundation for Nature and Mandking”, another French-based environmental group, filed the case in 2018. The suit accused the French government of falling short of its obligations to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in line with its commitments under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and related French laws.
“This is an historic win for climate justice. The decision not only takes into consideration what scientists say and what people want from French public policies, but it should also inspire people all over the world to hold their governments accountable for climate change in their courts,” said Jean-François Julliard, the executive director of Greenpeace France, one of the plaintiffs.
The judges also ruled that there is a link between the ecological damage that has been done and the government’s failures, and that the French state “should be held liable.” However, they ordered that France only pay each plaintiff 1 Euro ($1.20 US) and focus their efforts on meeting the greenhouse gas standards set forth by the Paris Climate Agreement.
On November 4, 2019, the U.S. Government sent an official notice that it planned to withdraw from the accord. The withdrawal became effective one year later in November 2020. It was President Obama’s administration that first signed-onto the Agreement in 2015; President Trump’s administration was responsible for the withdrawal. The current President Biden administration has rejoined the Agreement, but has not expressed any formal policy with how the U.S. would meet the goals set forth by the agreement.
Not every country in the world is part of the Paris Climate Agreement. And because it’s an “agreement” and not a “treaty”, it is a non-binding international accord among those that signed it.
Because of French law, though, their own country could be found guilty of not following the agreement, as was the case with this week’s ruling.
A 2019 analysis shows that France isn’t alone in not following the Paris Climate Agreement. The report’s analysis of the 184 pledges for 2030 found that almost 75 percent were insufficient. In fact, the world’s first and fourth biggest emitters, China and India, our forecast to have higher greenhouse gas emissions in 2030.
Some have expressed concern that greenhouse gas emission could lead to warmer global temperatures, but there is yet to be conclusive scientific consensus among meteorologists and climatologists of such a definitive link.