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L’affaire du Siècle: French Climate Litigation between Continuity and Legal Innovations

Christel Cournil, Antoine Le Dylio, Paul Mougeolle


Four associations filed l’affaire du siècle, a climate legal action against the French State before the Administrative Court of Paris in May 2019. This lawsuit questions the State’s actions and inactions in matters of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Even though the complaint is mainly based on legal constructions and theories that are well-known to French Courts, this paper focuses on three ground-breaking legal innovations brought by the plaintiffs: a pre-existing general State obligation to combat climate change, a pre-existing right to live in a sustainable climate system, and, eventually, the remediation of the pure ecological damage (préjudice écologique) linked to climate change through a formal demand for monetary compensation of one symbolic euro and an injunctive relief to take all measures to limit global warming under the 1.5 °C threshold.

This article was written by Prof. Christel Cournil (Sciences Po Toulouse, specialised in public law), Antoine Le Dylio (Lawyer at the Paris Bar and environmental engineer) and Paul Mougeolle (Ph.D. Candidate assessing the climate legal actions in a comparative manner). The authors represented and advised the NGO Notre affaire à Tous during the legal writing of the formal notice and the complaint. The other NGOs were represented by their own barristers and in-house lawyers. A special thanks to Filippo P. Fantozzi, LL.M. Candidate in Climate Change and Energy Law at Pace University School of Law and International Coordinator for Notre Affaire à Tous since 2018. Thank you also to French program CLIMARM.


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