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. The victims of climate change are now visible. 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. 

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 itself. 

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

On 18 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. The aim of this case is to have the judge recognise the general obligation of the French State to act in the fight against climate change, in order to protect French citizens’ rights against the dangerous impacts of climate change. The petition of support was signed by more than 2 million people in just a few weeks.

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. They were seeking, on the one hand, to get compensation for the damages suffered as a result of the State’s faults in the fight against climate change and, on the other hand, to urge the State to put an end to all of 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 regulator, investor and 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. 

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 have 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. The Court is expected to render its decision about two weeks after the hearing, at the end of January.