France Slapped with Court Order to Clean Up Air Pollution

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France’s supreme legal authority has ordered the French government to address the nation’s poor air quality in a landmark court case brought by Friends of the Earth France with the support of environmental lawyers ClientEarth.

The Conseil d’État yesterday gave the French government nine months to produce an air quality plan detailing how it plans to bring air quality in line with legal limits set by the EU.

The decision follows similar rulings by UK courts, which have twice forced the British government produce an air quality plan containing strategies to bring the country back into compliance with EU law as soon as possible.

In France, as in the UK, the main pollutants that consistently breach EU standards are nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, which are mainly caused by diesel vehicles in urban centres.

The Conseil d’État ruled current measures are not adequate to tackle the problem, which in many areas causes illegal levels of pollution.

“The decision of the Conseil d’État is a great victory for the health of French citizens,” ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said in a statement. “The French court followed the example of a growing host of judges across Europe who are protecting people’s right to clean air and holding authorities accountable.”

The French government has signalled its willingness to take steps to address air quality. For example, earlier this month French ecology minister Nicolas Hulot announced plans to ban petrol and diesel vehicles from French streets by 2040.