The legislation includes six key measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

The French Parliament has adopted a new climate energy package to tackle the effects of climate change and boost France’s energy transition endeavors to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. As per Article 4.1 of the 2015 Paris Agreement, carbon neutrality is defined in the package as the balance, across the national territory, between anthropic emissions by sources and removal of greenhouse gases by sinks. Six key goals comprise this latest legislation.

Waste producers must comply with new criteria and procedures for objects and products to benefit from end of waste status.

By Paul Davies

The French government has developed many measures to foster circular economy approaches. Most recently, a Ministerial Order of 11 December 2018 (Order) sets out criteria and procedures to end the waste status of certain objects and chemical products, to encourage their preparation for re-use.

The French Code of the Environment[i] defines “preparing for re-use” as “checking, cleaning or repairing recovery operations, by which products or components of products that have become waste are prepared so that they can be re-used without any other pre-processing.”

The Order requires that the objects and products meet specific criteria in order to benefit from the end of waste status. The criteria relate to:

  • The nature of the object or product
  • Techniques and treatment processes
  • Qualities and properties of objects and products resulting from such treatments
  • Contractual conditions subject to which such objects and products will be sold
  • Operator’s obligations in relation thereto (traceability)

Four NGOs launch innovative action claiming state has not met COP21 objectives.

By Paul A. Davies and Michael D. Green

On 17 December 2018, four NGOs filed legal action against the French state. In the legal action, the NGOs argued that the state has not met the short-term climate change objectives set at COP21. The NGOs — Greenpeace France, Oxfam France, the Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme (FNH), and Notre Affaire à Tous — simultaneously launched an online petition to involve citizens in the action, now nearing an unprecedented two million signatures to date.

In accordance with the French Administrative Justice Code, the procedure for the legal action has two prongs. First, the claimants submitted a preliminary demand (demande préalable) to the Prime Minister and to no less than 12 government members seeking damages for: (i) moral harm, (ii) moral harm suffered by their members, and (iii) ecological prejudice suffered by the environment. (For more information on ecological prejudice, see Latham & Watkins’ blog post “The Notion of ‘Ecological Prejudice’ Now in the French Civil Code”.) If the state does not respond within two months of the preliminary demand, the claimants intend to file an indemnification claim before the Administrative Tribunal of Paris in March 2019. The claimants intend to allege causation between the state’s lack of action and the acceleration of climate change.

Lawmakers will debate an amendment to include the country’s environmental commitments in Article 1 of France’s Constitution.

By Fabrice Fages

MPs in France have adopted an amendment to include a new paragraph in Article 1 of the French Constitution. The amendment reads:

France acts towards the preservation of the environment and biological diversity, and against climate change.”

The Constitutional Law Commission of the National Assembly adopted the amendment on June 27, 2018, as part of France’s upcoming constitutional reform. A plenary session beginning on July 10, 2018 will debate the amendment.

The amendment represents an interesting shift from the previous constitutional reform proposal. The previous proposal addressed the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change via the modification of Article 34 of the Constitution.

A recent Environmental Code amendment aims to invigorate sluggish legal processes delaying environmental project development.

By Paul A. Davies and Fabrice Fages

Third parties and local NGOs often bring legal action against environmental permits in France, hampering the development of environmental projects in the country. An example of a practical consequence is that the development of a wind farm takes on average between seven and nine years in France, versus three to four years in Germany. In order to limit the impact of drawn-out legal proceedings before administrative courts and allow projects to progress, a 2017 amendment to the Environmental Code (article L.181-18) now affords administrative judges broader powers to give more time and leeway to the authorities to correct a flawed decision or part of a decision before the court simply annuls it.

After neglecting to heed an initial warning, six Member States may face financial penalties if they do not reduce pollution levels.

By Paul A. Davies, Michael D. Green, and Alexander Wilhelm

The European Commission (EC) has referred the UK, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Romania to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for failing to adequately tackle and control air pollution in their respective jurisdictions. The Member States, the EC said, had not produced and delivered “credible, effective and timely measures to reduce pollution as soon as possible, as required under EU law”. The EC had already issued these Member States with a warning in January 2018. Polluted and toxic air is thought to cause over 400,000 early deaths each year in Europe. The actions against the UK, France, and Germany concern exceedances of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), while the actions against Hungary, Italy, and Romania target particulate matter (PM10).

The ECJ can impose significant fines stretching to millions of euros, for Member States that fail to remedy their behaviour.

In this blog, a more detailed analysis of the current position in the UK, France, and Germany is set out.

Intense lobbying surrounds a recent proposal to amend Article 34 of the Constitution.

By Paul Davies and Fabrice Fages

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe recently unveiled a series of proposed modifications to the French Constitution that align with President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign platform. The proposals, which were unveiled on April 4, face objections from a range of stakeholders and political observers.

One of these proposals is to incorporate the fight against climate change in France’s fundamental law by amending Article 34 of the Constitution, which delineates the scope of statute law and the fields in which statutes will determine certain fundamental rules and basic principles. These fields are deemed to be pillars of the republic and therefore merit legislative foundations. Based on these legislative foundations, the government will subsequently adopt regulatory enforcement measures (decrees or orders) as matters other than those coming under the scope of statute law shall be matters for regulation” (Constitution, Article 37).

The multi-pronged plan will encourage a collaborative national effort to dispose of France’s “consume and discard” model.

By Paul A. Davies

The French Prime Minister recently unveiled the country’s circular economy roadmap. The 50-item scheme, announced on 23 April 2018, is the result of consultation with stakeholders (November 2017 —January 2018) and a two-stage online public participation involving the solicitation of comments and then the submission of draft roadmap (November 2017—February 2018).

The roadmap

Some measures are new and some derive from Law n°2015-992 of 17 August 2015 on energy transition, which was the catalyst for the nation’s circular economy scheme in a variety of respects. By 2019, the roadmap will be followed by a bill and regulatory measures transposing the EU’s Circular Economy Package objectives, which will lead to the amendment of the following directives:

  • Waste
  • Packaging waste
  • Landfill
  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE)
  • End-of-life vehicles
  • Waste batteries
  • Accumulators

Government must prepare all sectorial bills in accordance with new simplification requirements by the second quarter of 2018.

By Paul Davies and Michael Green*

The French Prime Minister has further emphasised the importance of France’s new regulation simplification policy in an Administrative Circular Letter of January 12, 2018.

Citing the fact that the administrative burden weighing on businesses represents an annual €60 billion, or 3% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) alone, the Prime Minister directed that each central administration director (directeur d’administration centrale) draft simplification plans at the level of each ministerial department before the end of Q1 2018. From Q2 2018 onwards, the French government will have to prepare all sectorial bills in accordance with these simplification requirements. The newly created Inter-ministerial Directorate for the Transformation of the Public Sector will review all sectorial bills in close coordination with the General Secretariat of the Government (SGG).