By Michael Green

With the Biodiversity Law n°2016-1087 of August 8, 2016, the French Civil code now formally recognises “ecological prejudice” (préjudice écologique) as a category of indemnifiable damage. The move is symbolically significant and builds on the recognition of this category of damages by the Court of Appeals of Paris on March 30, 2010 in the 1999 Erika shipwreck matter (which resulted in pollution of over 400km of the French Brittany coastline).

The legal recognition of ecological prejudice can be traced to the Court’s landmark ruling, in which it was decided that “the ecological prejudice resulting from damage to non-mercantile environmental assets shall be compensated by monetary equivalent”. It further defined the matter as an “… objective prejudice … [which] is to apply to any non-negligible harm to the natural environment, that is, to the air, the atmosphere, water, soils, earths, landscapes, natural sites, biodiversity and the interactions between these elements, which may carry no repercussion for any specific human interest but affects a legitimate collective interest”.