French govt faces fines of €10 mil every 6 months for air pollution

Activists had put masks on statues in Paris in 2018 to highlight France’s failure to tackle air pollution (AFP pic)

PARIS: France’s top administrative court on Friday ordered the government to take concrete measures to cut air pollution in several cities and towns, or face fines of €10 million every six months until the demand is met.

The State Council said in a statement the sum is the highest it has ever levied to “oblige the state to implement a decision taken by the administrative judiciary”.

The court had ruled three years ago that the state was not following through on its commitments to cut nitrogen dioxide and PM10 particulates in 13 regions, to comply with EU limits set in 2008.

But several NGOs including Friends of the Earth later filed suit, urging the court to force the government to take further actions.

On Friday, the State Council said that in 2019 air pollution levels were still too high in eight areas, including Paris, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Marseille.

“The state cannot be considered as having taken sufficient measures that would fulfil its obligations,” the court said.

It said the fine reflected the severity of a public health risk that causes some 50,000 premature deaths in France every year.

The collected fines could be split among the plaintiffs, as well as other independent bodies, or activists working on efforts to reduce air pollution.