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Paris court rules French state liable for inaction on climate change

A French court on Wednesday held the state responsible for its alleged failure to take sufficient measures to halt climate change, handing NGOs victory in a landmark case backed by over two million citizens.

Paris court rules French state liable for inaction on climate change
The Eiffel Tower seen through a polluted Paris skyline. Photo: AFP

The administrative court in Paris ruled that the government's failure to convert its commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions into policy made it “responsible… for some of the ecological damage seen”.

The judges said however they would take a further two months to decide whether it was necessary to force President Emmanuel Macron's government to take steps to ensure it met its targets on greening the economy.

Oxfam France in a Tweet hailed the ruling as a “historic victory for the climate”.

“The state's climate action has been recognised as ILLEGAL,” it added.

Oxfam France, Greenpeace France and two other groups accused the government of failing to keep Macron's stated promise to “make our planet great again”.

The case is part of a mounting push by climate campaigners across the world to use courts to pressure governments into action.

An international accord signed in Paris five years ago aims to limit global warming to less than 2C (3.6 Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, and preferably to 1.5C.

But experts say governments are far from meeting their commitments and anger is growing among younger generations over inaction, symbolised by the campaigns of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.

In a separate but similar case in November, France's top administrative court gave the government a three-month deadline to show it was taking action on global warming.

That case was brought by Grande-Synthe, a low-lying northern coastal town that is particularly exposed to the effects of climate change.

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POLITICS

French minister: US green plan should be ‘wake-up call’ for EU industry

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday said Washington's $430 billion plan to spur climate-friendly technologies in the United States must be seen as a wake-up call for Europe.

French minister: US green plan should be 'wake-up call' for EU industry

The EU “must be able to sweep in front of our own door” before worrying about the effects of the US climate plan on European industry, Le Maire told AFP in Washington, where he was part of French President Emmanuel Macron’s US state visit.

Even though the EU has already “changed its approach” on promoting green industry, the US climate plan must be seen as a “wake-up call” in the European Union, he added.

Le Maire’s comments came as EU countries have poured criticism on Washington’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), seeing it as anti-competitive and a threat to European jobs, especially in the energy and auto sectors.

Subsidies for green energy

The act, designed to accelerate the US transition to a low-carbon economy, contains around $370 billion in subsidies for green energy as well as tax cuts for US-made electric cars and batteries.

Macron on Wednesday slammed the plan’s “Made in USA” provisions as “super aggressive” for European businesses.

But at a joint press conference with Macron, Biden said that he and the French leader had agreed to “discuss practical steps to coordinate and align our approaches”, though he said he would not apologize for the US plan.

Biden added the IRA was never intended to disadvantage any US allies.

Threats of retaliatory measures

Last month, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton threatened to appeal to the World Trade Organization and consider “retaliatory measures” if the United States did not reverse its subsidies.

Le Maire also criticized the EU’s own climate spending plans, arguing that they were too cumbersome and loaded with red tape.

“If the ambition is the same” as the Europeans, the United States relies on methods that “are simpler and faster”, he said.

“They put immediate and massive tax credits where we provide state aid (to specific projects) which sometimes take two years to be adopted and are too complex to implement,” said Le Maire.

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