Damien MEYER / AFP
POLITICS – The French State in the dock. This Thursday, January 14, the first hearing of the “Affair of the Century”, a procedure launched at the beginning of 2019 by the four Greenpeace NGOs, the Nicolas Hulot Foundation for Nature and Humanity, begins at the Paris Administrative Court. , Oxfam and Notre Affaire à tous.
Two years and a petition signed by two million citizens later, the courts are called upon to condemn the state’s inaction in the face of climate change.
Exceeded carbon budgets, shortcomings in terms of energy renovation of buildings or development of renewable energies … these four organizations, joined by many others since 2018, accuse successive political leaders, through this action, of “faulty deficiency.” All while pointing out the direct impacts on the daily life of the French, their health or their standard of living.
A symbolic interest
But this procedure does concern the State, as a legal person and not any minister or elected official concerned for his inaction. So what is the concrete aim of such a remedy? “To recognize the responsibility of the State” in the “ecological damage”, in the words of Cécilia Rinaudo, the coordinator of Notre Affaire à tous, quoted by AFP. An interest which seems, above all, symbolic, as the moral reparation of one euro requested by the applicants tends to show.
For this first hearing, the public rapporteur, an administrative judge, will deliver his conclusions and formulate proposals for the formation of judgment, before a final decision of the administrative court of Paris in a second step.
And he should indeed recognize “the culpable failure” of the State, in particular for not having respected the trajectories which they had fixed in terms of reduction of greenhouse gases. “Concretely, the State is only condemned to one symbolic euro for moral damage and the rapporteur proposes to reject compensation for ecological damage”, explains lawyer Arnaud Gossement after having been able to consult the summary of the judge’s conclusions. administrative, published on January 12.
For the specialist in environmental issues, this decision “may not change things much”, especially as the magistrate would not, for the time being, wish formally to urge the State to take measures to put an end to the aggravation. ecological damage.
The climate at the heart of the debate
“We cannot expect the judge to modify the trajectory of the State liner”, notes Arnaud Gossement, for whom, the nature of the conclusions of the public rapporteur entails, however, a form of “recognition of the interest of the action ”Of the requesting NGOs, for their“ agitation in the noble sense. ”
Especially since this procedure has many other interests. While the climate issue is increasingly taking over courtrooms, in France as in many countries around the world, climate advocates know that this form of action, albeit a double-edged sword, can multiply the blows. spotlight on their cause.
“It was the first time that we used the lever of justice. It challenged people ”, tells Cécilia Rinaudo to the specialized media. POSITIVR, to explain the success of the “Affair of the Century” petition, signed by more than 2.3 million citizens since 2018. “Since the introduction of this affair, I have been asked to talk about it in progress, there has many press articles, it allows you to talk about climate change, all of this is very useful ”, adds Arnaud Gossement.
All this, by opening a new front against Emmanuel Macron and his ministers in the field of ecological transition. Because behind this appeal against the State, it is the current power that is singled out, constantly accused of displaying facade ambitions, without having taken the measure of climatic and environmental challenges. Recently, last November, it was the Council of State which pinpointed the government’s contradictions by giving it three months to demonstrate that it has taken the measures to achieve its commitments in terms of reducing greenhouse gases. .
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