French government threatened with fines by top court over air pollution

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government will be fined 10 million euros ($11.3 million every six months if it does not reduce air pollution in line with the law, the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, said on Friday.

Following complaints by environmental organisations, the council ordered the government in July 2017 to take measures to reduce carbon dioxide and particulate matter pollution in several regions to bring them in line with a May 21, 2008 European Union directive that was transposed into French law.

“The council notes that the government has not taken the necessary steps to reduce air pollution in eight zones,” it said in a statement, adding that the 10 million euro fine would be the highest penalty it has ever issued.

Insufficient anti-pollution measures were notably in areas around Paris, Grenoble, Lyon, Marseille-Aix, Reims, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Fort-de-France, it said.

The only credible plan for a reduction in pollution by 2022 was in the Arve valley area close to Switzerland, it said.

“Plans for other zones include no estimates for expected air quality improvement nor clear targets for reaching those targets,” the council said.

A 2018 plan for the Ile-de-France region around Paris includes credible measures but its 2025 target date is too far off to ensure improvement, it said.

The fines paid by the state would be transferred to environmental organisations, the council said, adding that the fines could also be increased.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Frances Kerry