France fined again for failing to improve air quality

Toulouse, Paris, Lyon and Aix-Marseille remain at particular risk

The Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court, in Paris. Reuters
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France's highest administrative court ordered the state to pay two more €10 million ($9.7m) fines on Monday for failing to improve air quality in major cities.

The latest penalties came on top of another €10m fine from the same court for the same reason in 2021.

The Conseil d'Etat court ordered the government five years ago 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.

It said the money would go to environmental groups that brought the cases.

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

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France is among several EU members that the bloc's top court has found in breach of its 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.

French Environment Minister Christophe Bechu acknowledged the court's decision and said he would meet officials from the country's most polluted cities.

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Updated: October 17, 2022, 10:21 PM