France, Call to Order for the Environment

The Constitutional Council maintains that the urgency of a crisis should not justify measures that aggravate global warming.
france constitutional council

The Constitutional Council has issued a warning to the government by expressing reservations about the energy component of the purchasing power bill: the urgency of a crisis should not justify measures that aggravate global warming.

The members of the Council, seized by more than 120 deputies and senators of the left, recalled for the first time that “the preservation of the environment must be sought in the same way as the other fundamental interests of the nation”.

They validated the two texts of the law on purchasing power on Friday but issued two “reservations of interpretation” on the energy part. The law provides for exemptions from the Environmental Code for the commissioning of the floating LNG terminal in Le Havre, and it must also allow for an increase in the cap on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in the event of a threat to the security of electricity supply.

In concrete terms, “the State will not be able to definitively authorize this LNG terminal or this increase in emission ceilings, it will necessarily have to be framed, justified, temporary, proportionate”, explains to AFP Arnaud Gossement, associate professor at Paris I and lawyer specializing in environmental law.

“On top of the market, it will be necessary to compensate for the emissions, therefore to make carbon compensation. The obligation to respect greenhouse gas emission quotas is almost constitutional and has reached a new level,” says Corinne Lepage, former Minister of Ecology and a lawyer specializing in environmental law.

“Call to order”

The Constitutional Council gives, for the first time, an authority to the Charter of the Environment, wanted by President Jacques Chirac, integrated into the French Constitution in 2005 and “it is a decision that constitutes a turning point in the environmental field”, continues Corinne Lepage.

The preamble of the Charter, which until then had only a symbolic value, thus enters the race for the ecological transition, at a time when scientists do not stop alarming about the ravages of global warming.

“This will change two things: the Constitutional Council can reduce the scope of measures voted by Parliament, as it has just done on the LNG terminal, and create a duty of justification for the State,” summarizes Arnaud Gossement.

But in the meantime, in the heart of a hot and dry summer that gives a glimpse of the France of 2050, “everything is validated” and “the ‘fundamental interests’ have a good back, even though the threat to gas supply is neither serious nor unstoppable,” regrets Julien Bayou, president of the ecologist group at the National Assembly.

“It is a call to order of the Council”, but “we know very well that it does not work like that, there is so much money injected in this kind of project that it will have to be profitable. It will be enough of another crisis, of another breach, to continue in this fault”, estimates Justine Ripoll, in charge of campaign of the NGO of defense of the environment “Our Business to All”, at the origin of the appeal against the State for climatic inaction.

By authorizing this LNG terminal, “this law is a milestone in terms of ecological non-transition”, says Sandrine Rousseau, Nupes-EELV deputy.

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