Lawsuits and decisions
1. Request to get annulment of the first air quality plan
In 2006 les Amis de la Terre Paris (Friends of the Earth, FoE) started legal actions because the air quality plan was insufficient to respect limit values and no serious measures for traffic regulation were included. The administrative court (Conseil d’Etat) judges in 2008 that the plan comprises effective measures. FoE missed to prove that the air quality plan was insufficient to meet limit values, therefore the court decision comes into force.
2. Claim to obtain State responsibility for poor air quality
Because of the continuous exceedance of limit values for PM10 and NO2 in 2009 FoE decided to change its legal strategy. The Environmental organization demanded the State’s administration to take the planned measures to meet the limits as soon as possible. In 2011 the administrative tribunal decided that the air quality plan was respected, even if there were exceedances of limit values and the European commission started an infringement proceeding against the French Government for failing to comply with EU air quality standards. In 2013 the administrative court of appeal decided that there is y on the public administration to actually ensure limit values. FoE appealed before the administrative supreme court. At this moment three Member states had been condemned by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for breaching the limit values of PM10 (Sweden 2011, Portugal and Italy 2012). Also the parliamentarians agreed within a report that France is sure to be condemned by the ECJ. The decision of the administrative court is expected for the next year.
3. Request to get annulment of the new air quality plan
In 2013 the second Air Quality Plan was adopted by the French government. This plan doesn’t include effective measures to meet limit values before 2020. Major measurements, e.g. introduction of LEZs were dismissed. Therefore FoE request the withdrawal of the second Air Quality Plan, but the obligation to carry out an environmental assessment (Article 3 § 2a of Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment is not applied for French Air Quality Plans).
4. Legal action “against X”
The environmental organisations Ecologie sans frontier and respire started a legal action against unknown for endangering the lives of others on 12 April 2014. They aimed to force inhabitants lose an average of six month of life due to air pollution. Despite existing legislation the competent authorities have been inactive so far. France is one of the countries with the largest fleet of diesel vehicles in Europe. These engines are responsible for the large emissions of black carbon, that is dangerous for climate and health.
In September 2014 the French NGO respire started a crowdfunding platform to support special legal activities of NGOs on environmental and health focus. Every NGO in Europe can use this platform and ask for donation.
6. ACTION AGAINST FRENCH GOVERNMENT
Following the previous setbacks, Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth France), with the support of ClientEarth, started a new court action in December 2015. This time, the NGO targeted directly the French government for its failure to ensure compliance with the air quality limit values in more than 16 zones and agglomerations in France.
In its judgment of 11 July 2017 (N° 394254), the Conseil d’État departed sharply from its previous decisions. The French highest court followed the case law of the CJEU (namely, the ClientEarth case) and the example of many other national courts in Europe. In particular, the Conseil d’État held that the Air Quality Directive sets an obligation of results. It also held that the discretion of competent authorities over the content of air quality plans is limited and subject to judicial review. In light of the widespread and significant exceedances of the limit values across France, the French court ordered the adoption of new and more effective air quality plans by 31 March 2018.