France fined over air pollution again

A general view shows the Tours Duo and vapour that billows from smokestacks in Paris, France, February 9, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS, Oct 17 (Reuters) - France's highest administrative court on Monday ordered the state to pay two new 10-million-euro ($9.75 million) fines for failing to improve air quality in major cities.

The penalties came on top of another 10 million euro fine from the same court for the same reason back in 2021.

They also came five years after the Conseil d'Etat court ordered the government to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particles in more than a dozen zones to comply with European standards.

"To this day, the measures undertaken by the state don't guarantee that air quality improves enough to respect pollution thresholds as quickly as possible," the Conseil d'Etat said in a statement. It said the money would go to environmental groups which brought the case.

It added that despite some improvement, four areas remained particularly at risk: Toulouse, Paris, Lyon and Aix-Marseille.

France is among several European Union members that the EU's top court has found in breach of the bloc's air quality standards in recent years.

Brussels estimates that air pollution contributes to more than 400,000 premature deaths in Europe each year and has been pushing EU members for compliance and taking legal action against those flaunting the rules.

Environment minister Christophe Bechu acknowledged the court's decision in a statement and said he would meet officials from the country's most polluted cities.

Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Juliette Jabkhiro and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Dominique Vidalon, Tomasz Janowski and Andrew Heavens

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.