French government ordered to redraw air quality plan

France’s legal authority, the Conseil d’État (Council of State), has ruled that the French government must produce a plan to bring nitrogen dioxide and PM10 emissions in line with EU limits within nine months.

The ruling yesterday (12 July) comes after a legal challenge by Friends of the Earth France dating back to 2015, which was supported by environmental campaign group ClientEarth.

The Palais-Royal, home of the Conseil d’Etat in Paris. (Picture: S. Bonaime/

ClientEarth has itself been involved in several court cases on air pollution, having pursued successful court actions against the UK government over its air quality plan on two occasions.

The order from the Conseil d’État yesterday states that current measures set out by the French government are not sufficient to bring down air pollution in areas where air pollution limits set out in the EU air quality directive have been exceeded.

In its ruling, the Council referred to the 2014 European Court of Justice Case between the UK government and ClientEarth, in which the CJEU ruled that national courts have the authority to ensure that governments establish a plan to meet air quality deadlines in the EU directive (see story).


In a translation of the ruling, the Council has stated: “The Council of State notes that the atmospheric protection plans established in the areas concerned have not been able to ensure compliance with the limit values ​​within a reasonable period of time and deduces that further measures have to be taken In order to comply with the obligations laid down in the Directive and incorporated in the Environment Code. The Council of State therefore annulled the refusal to take additional measures.”

The French authorities have been given a 31 March 2018 deadline to come up with a new plan.

Commenting on the case, ClientEarth lawyer Ugo Taddei said:  “The decision of the Conseil d’État is a great victory for the health of French citizens.

“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 ruling comes just days after the French government said it would ban the sale of diesel and petrol vehicles in the country after 2040 (see story).


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