Greenhouse gas emissions: the Government must take new measures and submit an initial report by the end of the year

Décision de justice
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In a case brought by the town of Grande-Synthe, the Conseil d'État had ordered the Government to take all necessary measures, by 31 March 2022, to achieve the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 40% below 1990 levels. This would allow France to comply with the Paris Agreement and the European commitments covered by French law. One year on, the Conseil d’État has reviewed whether the actions taken reflect the correct implementation of its decision. The Conseil d’État considers that, although additional measures have been taken and reflect the Government's desire to implement the decision, there is as yet still no credible guarantee that the trajectory of reducing greenhouse gas emissions shall be effectively respected. As a result, the Conseil d’État today ordered the Government to take new measures by 30 June 2024, and to provide a progress report by 31 December, providing details on these measures and their effectiveness.

In July 2021, in a case brought by the municipality of Grande-Synthe and several environmental organisations, the Conseil d'État ordered the Government to take all necessary measures before 31 March 2022 to reduce projected greenhouse gas emissions produced in France in order to ensure its compliance with the objectives set under French law in accordance with the Paris Agreement (a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels). After receiving the Government's evidence of its actions and the comments of the municipality of Grande-Synthe, the City of Paris, and the applicant organisations, the Conseil d’État organised an oral hearing, during which it was able to hear the Government and the applicants, and question the High Council on Climate. Following a hearing on 12 April, the Conseil d’État issued its decision today.

The Conseil d’État set out how it would determine whether the decision of 1 July 2021 had been properly implemented. It had to examine whether the measures taken by the Government, or the measures that can still be taken to take effect within a sufficiently short period of time, allow the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions to come into line with the objectives set for 2030. In this respect, it had to examine whether the intermediate objectives have been achieved, whether the measures adopted or announced are likely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or, on the contrary, are likely to increase such emissions. Finally, it had to take into account the observed and foreseeable effects of the various measures and, more broadly, the effectiveness of the public policies implemented, based on the available evaluation methods and on the opinions of experts, including the High Council on Climate.

Emission reduction targets for 2019-2023 could be met...

To achieve the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels, the Government has adopted a trajectory for reducing these emissions over four periods known as carbon budgets (2015-2018, 2019-2023, 2024-2028 and 2029-2033). Each of these includes emission reduction targets.

Subject to confirmation of the 2021 and 2022 data, the data published by the CITEPA (Centre Interprofessionnel Technique d'Etudes de la Pollution Atmosphérique [inter-professional technical centre for studies on air pollution]) shows that, so far, the 2019-2023 targets, corresponding to an average decrease in emissions of 1.9% per year, could be met. However, behind the average figure, the annual emission reductions fluctuate significantly:  -1.9% in 2019, then -9.6% in 2020. Moreover, the provisional data available shows that emissions rose again in 2021 (+6.4%) before falling in 2022 (-2.5%), despite a particularly small drop in the first nine months of the year.

The Conseil d'État noted that there is uncertainty as to whether these results are linked to government action or to the specific circumstances of recent years, when there were sharp falls in activity (in 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic and two lockdowns) and then the energy crisis (in 2022, with the war in Ukraine).

...but it is not certain that emission reductions can be sufficiently accelerated from 2024 onwards to reach the target set by legislation for 2030

The information provided by the Government shows that a certain number of measures have indeed been taken since 1 July 2021, with a budget allocated to financing them and the ecological and energy transition more generally. The simulation exercise carried out by CITEPA, at the request of the Government, indicates that the measures taken since July 2017 could make it possible to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of more than 38% in 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

However, the Conseil d’État noted that, in its 2022 report, the High Council on Climate (HCC) considered that there is a proven risk that the 2030 reduction target will not be met. As the HCC noted, out of the 25 emission reduction strategic directions established by the Government (national low carbon strategy or SNBC), only six benefitted from measures in line with the reduction trajectory that has been set, and four even involved measures with contrary effects, particularly in the transport, building, agriculture and energy sectors. The HCC thus stressed that there is a significant risk that the targets set for 2030 will not be met. Furthermore, the HCC noted that despite the creation of a general secretariat for ecological planning, a genuinely effective system based on relevant indicators and systematic evaluation of the impact of public policies on the climate has still not been implemented. The HCC believes that the risk of not achieving the 2030 targets is all the greater given that the emissions reduction trajectory will require the acceleration of emission reductions to -3.2% per year from 2024. The HCC's findings have not been seriously disputed.

The government must go faster

The Conseil d'État noted that all the measures adopted since 1 July 2021, demonstrate the Government's determination to achieve the 2030 targets. However, the assessment of these measures is based on assumptions that have not yet been verified and the conclusions of this assessment are at odds with the HCC’s analysis.

Given the need to accelerate emission reduction from 2024 onwards, and in view of the new targets adopted by the European Union for 2030 (-55% compared to 1990 levels), the Conseil d'État considered that the measures taken to date do not provide a sufficiently credible guarantee that the emission reduction trajectory adopted by the Government can be achieved, in particular the 40% emission reduction target that was in force on the date of the Conseil d’État's decision of 1 July 2021.

On these grounds, the Conseil d’État concluded that its previous decision could not be considered to have been executed. It, therefore, issued a new injunction to the Government, ordering it to take all necessary measures, by 30 June 2024, to achieve the -40% emission reduction target in 2030. Although it did not impose a fine with the injunction, the Conseil d’État asked the Government to provide an initial report by 31 December 2023, and a full report by 30 June 2024, including evidence of the measures it has taken and how they are likely to enable it to meet the objective.



Decision No. 467982 of 10 May 2023, Commune de Grande-Synthe and others


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