Top court fines French state $11 million over air pollution levels

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France’s highest administrative court on Wednesday fined the state 10 million euros ($11.9 million) for failing to improve air quality in several areas of the country.

The sanction comes four years after the Conseil d’Etat, which acts as a legal adviser to the executive and as the supreme court for administrative justice, ordered the government to reduce levels of nitrous oxide and fine particles in more than a dozen zones to be in line with European standards.

In its ruling, the court said President Emmanuel Macron’s government had done too little to improve air quality in some zones, with nitrous oxide levels still too high in Paris, the capital, and Lyon, France’s second-largest urban area, in 2020.

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“The measures undertaken by the government are insufficient to deem that the court’s ruling of 2017 has been fully carried out,” the Conseil d’Etat said in a statement.

Officials at the environment ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

The government had argued it had implemented further measures since July last year to clean up its cities’ air, including additional low emission zones, incentives for electric and hybrid cars and a phasing out of oil-burning boilers.

The court said it could impose further 10 million euro fines every six months until the government met the targets.

Environmental group Les Amis de la Terre, which filed the initial complaint, welcomed the fine and said it was the result of years of pressure on the state by activists and the public.

Greenpeace in France said it was a record fine for the flouting of air quality standards.

In a separate case, the Conseil d’Etat has threatened to fine the French state if it failed to demonstrate it was enacting policies that make attainable a target of reducing greenhouse gases by 40 percent of their 1990 levels by 2030.

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