Why turn to the courts ?

State inaction is illegal ! The state is obliged to respect its national, European and international commitments and to protect its citizens’ human rights.

Climate justice is inseparable from social justice ! The French have understood it well, through the crisis of yellow vests. The victims of climate change are now visible. Maurice Feschet and Jean-François Périgné suffer a loss of income from their work linked to the deterioration of the climate. Magali Duranville deplores the endangering of the health of the French, their family lives, their homes. Citizens have clearly understood the widening gap between words and deeds, and that nothing is really being done today to counter the current climate crisis. Yet France is the European country most affected by the impacts of global warming. But the costs of the transition fall on the poorest.

All means of action have been used: individual actions, citizen mobilizations, boycotts as well as non-violent resistance. But neither the big polluters nor the States have answered the citizens and scientists calls for climate action.

Today, France is not keeping its commitments, even those it has set for itself. If the French respect the law, the States also have an obligation ! The State is responsible, it must act directly, and regulate the activity of polluters.

December 18, 2018: launch of the Case of the Century

On the 18th of December 2018, Notre Affaire à Tous, in partnership with the Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme, Greenpeace France and Oxfam France, initiated “l’Affaire du Siècle“, the climate litigation case against the French State. Its aim is to have a legal judge recognising the general obligation of the French State to act in the fight against climate change, thus protecting French citizens’ rights against its dangerous impacts. The petition of support was signed by more than 2 million people in just a few weeks.ne ce recours a recueilli en l’espace de quelques semaines plus de 2 million signatures.


March 14, 2019: filing of the summary request at the Administrative Court of Paris

On February 15, 2019, the Minister of the Ecological and Solidary Transition rejected the request of NGOs Notre Affaire à Tous, Greenpeace France, Oxfam France and the Fondation Nicolas Hulot pour la Nature et l’Homme. On one hand, they were seeking compensation for the damages caused by the State’s faults in the fight against climate change and. On the other hand, they were urging the State to put an end to all its failures concerning climate issues. On Thursday, March 14, 2019, they filed their lawsuit tackling the State’s inaction over climate change via a “summary request” before the Administrative Court of Paris.

May 20, 2019: Filing of the additional brief to the Court

Following the summary request filed for the Case of the Century before the Paris Administrative Court on March 14, the lawyers of Notre Affaire à Tous, the Nicolas Hulot Foundation for Nature and Mankind, Greenpeace France and Oxfam France filed an additional brief detailing all the arguments of the climate litigation case against the French State for climate inaction. This filing officially launched the beginning of the trial period.

June 24, 2020: The State files its reply

Nearly sixteen months after the start of the case, the State finally responds to the arguments filed against it by Notre Affaire à Tous, the Nicolas Hulot Foundation, Greenpeace France and Oxfam France, for the Case of the Century. In its 18-page defense brief, the State rejects the arguments presented by the co-plaintiff organizations and denies the deficiencies pointed out, even though they had, in the meantime, been confirmed by the French High Council for the Climate. This response comes at a time when two other organizations – the Fondation Abbé Pierre and the Fédération Nationale d’Agriculture Biologique – are presenting their arguments in support of the Case of the Century to the court.

September 4, 2020: The Case of the Century files its reply to the State’s arguments

Our lawyers filed our “reply brief” (i.e. our counter-arguments) on September 4, 2020 and 100 testimonies from the “Climate Witnesses” platform launched by the Case of the Century in December 2019.

In the reply brief, we remind the court that the responsibility of the State is indeed engaged, by demonstrating that it failed to establish an effective legal framework and to implement the human and financial means to ensure its respect. . The State has a crucial role to play, as a regulator, an investor and a catalyst at all levels. The Case of the Century also demonstrates that by failing to meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and renewable energies, it has itself directly contributed to the climate crisis: between 2015 and 2019, France emitted approximately 89 million tons of CO2 equivalent in excess of its targets – the equivalent of two and a half months of emissions for the entire country (at the pre-Covid rate).

January 14, 2021: Hearing of the Case of the Century

The hearing of the Case of the Century will take place before the Paris Administrative Court on January 14, 2021 at 1:45 pm, more than two years after the launch of this unprecedented legal action against the State’s climate inaction. More than two years after the launch of this unprecedented legal action against the State’s climate inaction. The courts could force the state to act.

At the hearing on Thursday, the public rapporteur will present his conclusions, i.e., the decision he recommends the court to take. The lawyers of the Case of the Century, who demonstrated the State’s faults, will then take the floor to recall our arguments :

  • The State has an obligation to protect us in the face of the climate crisis, yet it is far from respecting its commitments ;
  • France has systematically exceeded the carbon ceilings it had set for itself ;
  • The target of 23% renewable energy in 2020 is not respected ;
  • The delay in the energy renovation of buildings is such that the pace should be multiplied by 10 by 2030 ;
  • Greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector have fallen by only 1.5%, whereas the target was -15% !

The State, as a defendant, is then also supposed to take the floor. It is not supposed to develop new arguments. It should be noted that in the Grande-Synthe case, in November, the State did not wish to express itself. The Court is expected to render its decision about two weeks after the hearing, at the end of January.

February 3, 2021: The Court condemns the State for climate inaction

More than two years after the incredible mobilization that carried the Case of the Century, the administrative court of Paris has rendered its decision: we have won a HISTORICAL victory for the climate!

For the first time, the courts have recognized that the State’s inaction on climate change is illegal, that it is a fault, which engages its responsibility. This is a major progress in French law !

In its ruling on the Case of the Century, the AdministrativeCourt of Paris recognizes the responsibility of the French State in the climate crisis and deems its failure to comply with its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions illegal. The State is also found responsible for “ecological damage”. We hope for an even more historic judgment in the spring: the State could be condemned to take additional measures to combat climate change.

The Case of the Century and Grande-Synthe

The Case of the Century is also involved in the legal action of Grande Synthe, the city that attacked the state before the Council of State in November 2018. In February 2020, the Case of the Century filed a “voluntary intervention”, meaning it added its arguments to the legal case. On November 9, 2020, the Conseil d’Etat issued a landmark decision: it recognized the binding nature of the climate goals enshrined in the law, as well as the trajectories for achieving them, and gave the state 3 months to prove that it can achieve the trajectories it set for itself. The Case of the Century is producing new scientific evidence that shows that the projected GHG reduction trajectories are not credible without radically ambitious climate policies.

Legal deciphering in video

#1 Laws and obligations that the State does not respect

#2 What are the state’s climate delays?

#3: Facing the climate crisis, what can justice do?

#4: Win or lose the Affair of the Century, what next?

Read more