France before the ECHR for “climate inaction”, a first

by time news

Members of the European Court of Human Rights open the hearing in two climate change cases involving France and Switzerland, in Strasbourg, March 29, 2023. PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP

The European Court of Human Rights is examining this Wednesday, March 29, two applications related to climate change, targeting the French State and its Swiss neighbor.

For the first time, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is looking into the alleged climate inaction of a State. The international court is examining this Wednesday, March 29 in Strasbourg two requests related to climate change targeting Switzerland and France, accused of not taking sufficient action against its effects.

The Court first opened Switzerland’s case at 9.15 a.m. this morning. Pensioners, through the association “Elders for Swiss climate protection», denounce the consequences of global warming on the cardiovascular and respiratory health of «older women“. From 2:15 p.m. this afternoon, the hearing will focus on the case of France.

This second file concerns the request of the former mayor of Grande-Synthe (North), Damien Carême, now an EELV MEP. The elected official had filed two appeals before the Council of State in 2019, one in the name of the municipality, the other in his own name. The former city councilor believed that Grande-Synthe, located on the coast, was threatened by marine submersion.

Rights at risk

The highest administrative court had agreed with the municipality in July 2021, leaving France nine months to “take all necessary measures“in order to influence”the curve of greenhouse gas emissionsto meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement (-40% by 2030 compared to 1990).

The second petition filed on his behalf, however, was dismissed. Reason why Damien Carême had seized the ECHR “on the basis of Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights“recalls Maria Torre Schaub, CNRS research director at the Institute of Legal and Philosophical Sciences of the Sorbonne. These two articles respectively enshrine the “right to life“and the right of every person to respect”his private and family life, his home and his correspondence».

The 62-year-old MEP argues that the “deficiency” of France vis-à-vis its objectives touches him “directly“since she”increases the risk of their home being affected“by the rising waters, indicates the Court in a press release, relayed by AFP.

“Important event”

«The issue is extremely important“, said the former Minister of the Environment Corinne Lepage, lawyer for Damien Carême. If the ECHR agrees with its client, “this case-law would apply in all States of the Council of Europe and potentially in all States of the world“. For Maria Torre Schaub, this audience is a “important event“because it is the”first time that the Court can testify to an acknowledgment of climate risks and express itself on possible stronger measures to be put in place».

However, if the question of the presumed climate inaction of a State is unprecedented, the CEHD had already ruled on requests relating more broadly to the environmental question. Maria Torre Schaub mentions in particular the case of a Spaniard who in 1994 had filed a complaint denouncing the inaction of her municipality in the face of pollution caused by a water purification and waste treatment plant installed a few meters from her home. . The Court responded favorably to this request, establishing a “violation of Article 8 of the Convention».

The ECHR noted that the applicant and her family had to suffer this pollution “for more than three years“. Moving “prescribed by her daughter’s pediatrician» et «the inconvenientswhich followed, were also taken into account. Spain had therefore been summoned to “put an end to the disturbances and put in place measures to protect their homes“. A response deemed too weak by Maria Torre Schaub.

Decisions rendered in several months

But then, what does France risk in the case of Damien Carême’s request? Difficult to establish for the moment, according to the CNRS researcher. The Court can find that France has violated Articles 2 and 8 of the Convention. But the court can alsodecide only on half of the request“. By recognizing, for example, the presence of a risk but by considering that the State has already acted sufficiently. The researcher recalls that the government has promulgated the Climate and Resilience law and launched a national plan for adaptation to climate change. However, the City of Grande-Synthe lamented “extreme weakness” of the project.

To know the outcome of the Court’s decision, it will still be necessary to wait: the latter should only render its judgment in several months.

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