The L’affaire du siècle (French for “affair of the century”) is a French climate justice campaign initiated by four organisations (Fondation pour la nature et l’homme, Greenpeace France, Notre affaire à tous and Oxfam France) on 17 December 2018 to bring the French State to justice for its inaction in the fight against global warming. A legal action against the State was filed with the Paris Administrative Court on 14 March 2019. On 3 February 2021, in a decision that the associations described as ‘a historic victory for the climate’, this court confirmed the existence of a causal link between environmental damage and the failure of the State to adequately combat climate change. It ordered the State to submit written observations within a two-month time frame.
Among other things, the applicant organisations relied on Articles 2 and 8 ECHR and the French Charter of the Environment, as well as the”right to a preserved climate system”. The plaintiffs argued that this right stems from national and international law such as the Stockholm Declaration, the World Charter for Nature, the Rio Declaration, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, the Climate action and renewable energy package for 2020.
Findings on the merits:
The court found that the State had not respected its greenhouse gas reductions commitments and had therefore committed a “fault”. It accordingly held that, “[i]n line with the commitments that it had made within the framework of the first carbon budget, which it failed to respect, the State must be regarded as responsible […] for part of the ecological damage observed”.
The Administrative Court of Paris thereby confirmed that there was a causal link between the environmental damage and the inaction of the French government in combating climate change. In other words, it recognized that the government’s inaction had caused ecological damage, and that the State should be held responsible for at least part of this damage. The court ordered the government to show, within 2 months, the measures it intended to take against climate change. The court reserved the rest of its judgment until after it had received these submissions.
Date of filing:
14 March 2019
Date of decision:
3 February 2021
The full text of the judgment (in French) can be found here.
Paris Administrative Court, Notre Affaire à Tous and Others v. France (‘L’affaire du siècle’), case nos. 1904967, 1904968, 1904972, and 1904976/4, Judgment of 3 February 2021.