Court faults France in key air pollution case

James Marshall
June 27, 2019

Paris restricts auto use to fight against surging air pollution connected to intense heat wave that strikes the greater part of French areas, the police department of the city reported on Tuesday. "From now, the state will have to take effective measures in the fight against pollution and the victims can hope to have what they suffered recognised".

The court ruled that the plaintiff had not provided sufficient proof to establish a direct link between the Paris air pollution and her and her daughter's health problems and rejected her claims for compensation.

"For victims of pollution, this is a first", the plaintiffs' lawyer Francois Lafforgue told the AFP news agency.

"The state committed a fault by taking insufficient measures concerning the quality of air", the court concluded. Nevertheless, activists say this sets a precedent for other environment cases making their way through the courts. They claim that the French authorities did not do enough to address atmospheric pollution, specifically during a particularly bad period in December 2016.

At the time the two plaintiffs were living in the northern Paris suburb of Saint-Ouen, just outside the clogged périphérique ring road, used by more than a million motorists per day.

France has problems with airborne fine particles as and high levels nitrogen dioxide, which in some cities are more than double European Union limits. It accommodates 1.1 million drivers a day but is loathed by numerous 100,000 people living around it.

The decision has been hailed by environmental activists as an important legal basis for further action, forcing the state to tackle pollution.

Paris authorities have banned older models of diesel and petrol cars from Paris on Wednesday because of a build up of pollution. There is growing concern over pollution in Paris, which have been compounded by the heatwave in the capital and other parts of France.

Amid expected high level of ozone pollution linked to rising temperatures, speed limits will also be cut by 20 kilometer per hour in Paris and Ile-de-France on Wednesday, while vehicles weighing over 3.5 tonnes will be asked to bypass the city centre and nearby surroundings completely.

In May past year, France - along with the UK, Germany, Italy, Romania and Hungary - was taken to court by the European Commission over its long-standing failure to meet EU limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO₂).

In France's case the move came after 12 years of warnings over fine particles as well as nitrogen dioxide levels, which in some cities were more than double European Union limits.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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