France’s top administrative court has fined the government a record sum for failing to reduce air pollution to acceptable levels. The Council of State on Wednesday slapped its highest fine ever, 10 million euros, on President Emmanuel Macron’s government, warning it would do so again within months if the authorities fail to act quickly to combat smog.
Announcing the record fine, the Council of State, France’s top administrative tribunal, said measures decided by the government were insufficient to improve air quality.
Last year, the council ruled that the government had failed to implement a court order dating from 2017 to curb air pollution levels, and gave it six months to take corrective action or face a 10-million-euro fine every six months until air quality improves.
With the six-month deadline having elapsed, the Council is now implementing its threat.
Air pollution is believed to cause 40,000 premature deaths in France per year.
The court said that pollution by nitrogen dioxide — produced by fossil fuel combustion, notably by cars — was still excessive in five urban areas: Paris, Lyon, Marseille-Aix, Toulouse and Grenoble.
More fines to follow, unless air improves
It also singled out Paris for persistently high levels of PM10 micro particle pollution.
The court said it will examine air pollution levels again at the start of 2022 and may then impose another fine which could come in “above or below” the latest one, depending on the findings.
The Council of State said the fine issued on Wednesday will be shared among various anti-air pollution agencies.
The non-governmental Friends of the Earth, which launched the pollution lawsuit against the government, will get 100,000 euros, the judges ruled.