Top court fines French state over air pollution levels

The Eiffel Tower is surrounded by a small-particle haze which hangs above the skyline in Paris, France, December 9, 2016 as the City of Light experienced the worst air pollution in a decade. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

PARIS, Aug 4 (Reuters) - (This August 4 story corrected paragraphs 2 & 3 to show fine is over levels of nitrogen dioxide, not nitrous oxide)

France's highest administrative court on Wednesday fined the state 10 million euros ($11.9 million) for failing to improve air quality in several areas of the country.

The sanction comes four years after the Conseil d'Etat, which acts as a legal adviser to the executive and as the supreme court for administrative justice, ordered the government to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particles in more than a dozen zones to be in line with European standards.

In its ruling, the court said President Emmanuel Macron's government had done too little to improve air quality in some zones, with nitrogen dioxide levels still too high in Paris, the capital, and Lyon, France's second-largest urban area, in 2020.

"The measures undertaken by the government are insufficient to deem that the court's ruling of 2017 has been fully carried out," the Conseil d'Etat said in a statement.

Officials at the environment ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

The government had argued it had implemented further measures since July last year to clean up its cities' air, including additional low emission zones, incentives for electric and hybrid cars and a phasing out of oil-burning boilers.

The court said it could impose further 10 million euro fines every six months until the government met the targets.

Environmental group Les Amis de la Terre, which filed the initial complaint, welcomed the fine and said it was the result of years of pressure on the state by activists and the public.

Greenpeace in France said it was a record fine for the flouting of air quality standards.

In a separate case, the Conseil d'Etat has threatened to fine the French state if it failed to demonstrate it was enacting policies that make attainable a target of reducing greenhouse gases by 40% of their 1990 levels by 2030. read more

($1 = 0.8408 euros)

Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Kevin Liffey

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