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Online petition for climate change lawsuit against French government receives record support

A petition launched by French environmental groups calling for legal action against the state for failing to act to curb climate change has received unprecedented public support after weeks of fuel-price protests.

Online petition for climate change lawsuit against French government receives record support
People hold a banner reading "End of the world, end of the month, same culprits, same fight" as they take part in a march against climate change. Photo: AFP
By Friday morning the project, launched by four climate NGOs, had gained just under two million signatures a mere 10 days after going live. 
   
That already makes it the most popular online petition in France's history, easily eclipsing the 1.37 million signatories who resisted changes to the nation's labour laws in 2016. 
   
It also dwarfs the 1.17 million supporters of a demand by one of France's “yellow vest” protesters calling for lower petrol and diesel prices at the pump, launched in May.
   
“It's not just a petition, but also a call for legal action,” said Jean-Francois Julliard, CEO of Greenpeace France, one of the groups behind the initiative.
 
Photo: AFP 
  
The “yellow vest” movement began this year as a protest against planned anti-pollution fuel tax hikes. 
   
At its peak on November 17, nearly 290,000 demonstrators mobilised throughout France, causing widespread disruption. 
   
The protests prompted a climbdown from President Emmanuel Macron's government, which announced all planned fuel tax hikes for 2019 will be scrapped.
   
But this failed to quell the discontent of the “yellow vest” movement which has morphed into a revolt against Macron's policies, his aloof, top-down governing style, and the political class as a whole. 
   
Macron, who earned global plaudits for pledging to “make our planet great again” after taking office, has also come under pressure in recent months from environmental groups which insist more needs to be done to tackle the rising threats of climate change. 
   
His popular environment minister Nicolas Hulot resigned earlier this year over the government's green record, including its walking back on a commitment to reduce reliance on nuclear energy.
   
As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise in spite of dire warnings from scientists, there is a growing body of legal challenges worldwide against governments and big polluters for endangering the planet.
   
French Environment Minister Francois de Rugy told AFP last week he was “very happy that citizens are mobilising in the name of the climate.”

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School buses cancelled as southwest France braces for more rain

School bus services have been cancelled a storms hit one département in southwest France - with conditions set to remain difficult throughout the day.

Storms are hitting south west France
Storms are hitting south west France. Image: Shutterstock

Firefighters in the Carcassonne département of Aude – which was formally placed on orange weather alert by forecasters at Météo-France on Tuesday afternoon – have so far reported no significant damage after a night of heavy rainfall. 

But emergency services remain on alert with the autumnal storm system set to deposit more rain over the area on Wednesday before it moves away to the east.

So far, more than 144mm of rain has fallen in the area between Durban and Corbières and 133 mm in Coustouge.

To the east of the Corbières’ region, Météo France has recorded between 130 and 150mm of precipitation, and between 70mm to 100mm at stations in Leucate, Sigean and Carcassonne in just three hours early on Wednesday.

According to France’s floods watchdog Vigicrues, several towns in the east and south of the département – Feuilla, Fraissé-des-Corbières, Saint-Jean-de-Barrou, Sigean, Port-la Nouvelle, Peyriac-de- Mer, Narbonne and Gruissan – are bearing the brunt of the rainfall. 

It currently has seven yellow flood alerts in the Aude, indicating a ‘Risk of flooding generating overflows and localised damage, or a rapid and dangerous rise in water levels, requiring particular vigilance, particularly in the case of exposed and / or seasonal activities.’

The weather conditions have prompted the Aude préfecture to cancel school bus services on Wednesday around Bassin Versant de la Berre, Bassin Versant de l’Orbieu, and Bassin Versant du Verdouble, and urge residents to exercise caution as they go about their daily activities.

The system has generated significant snowfall at higher altitudes in the Pyrénées-Orientales, Haute-Ariège and Andorra. Up to 1m of snow is forecast in areas exposed to the easterly wind.

The rains are expected to intensify between Narbonne and the east of the Montagne Noire on Wednesday, with storms developing as the day progresses. An additional 120mm of precipitation could fall in localised areas during the day before the system moves east towards the Hérault then towards the lower valley of the Rhône and the Paca region on Thursday.

Light to moderate rains will persist in Aude overnight into Thursday.

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