France Enacts the Principle of Ecological Prejudice

Photograph: © SAF — Coastal Care


La ministre de la Justice Christiane Taubira présentera avant l’été un projet de loi visant à inscrire dans le code civil la notion de “préjudice écologique” et le principe de réparation de ce préjudice…

Read Full Article, Le Figaro

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, will be presenting before this summer, a bill proposing to include the notion of ecological prejudice in the Civil Code, and to make reparation a legal obligation.

The bill, made out of 4 articles, sets the recognition of environmental damage and priority is given to restitution in kind, over payments of compensation, in application of the “polluter pays” principle.

When the prejudice originator has been found guilty of gross misconduct committed with intent, the perpetrator could be sentenced to a monetary penalty up to, but not above 2 millions euros, unless it is a legal entity. In this case, the fine can be increased up to 10% of the annual gross revenue.

The bill also lists the potential claimants entitled to seek legal redress: the State, the Public Department, regional and local governments, regional and local communities as well as environmental groups.

The text also refers to the establishment of a “fund for environmental reparation,” that could be modeled after the “Barnier Fund” for the prevention of major natural hazards.

The proposed bill still needs to undergo several consultative processes before the vote before the Parliament.

This is the third time that the Justice Minister has announced plans to enact the notion of ecological prejudice, since the principle was first recognized by the French Court of Cassation in the verdict closing the Erika lawsuit on the 25th of September 2012.

This time around in the context of the 2015-United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, the proposed bill might find better support.


The Notion of “Ecological Prejudice” Now in the French Civil Code; Latham London (01-17-2017)
With the Biodiversity Law n°2016-1087 of August 8, 2016, the French Civil code now formally recognises “ecological prejudice” (préjudice écologique) as a category of indemnifiable damage. The move is symbolically significant and builds on the recognition of this category of damages by the Court of Appeals of Paris on March 30, 2010 in the 1999 Erika shipwreck matter (which resulted in pollution of over 400km of the French Brittany coastline).
The legal recognition of ecological prejudice can be traced to the Court’s landmark ruling, in which it was decided that “the ecological prejudice resulting from damage to non-mercantile environmental assets shall be compensated by monetary equivalent”. It further defined the matter as an “… objective prejudice … [which] is to apply to any non-negligible harm to the natural environment, that is, to the air, the atmosphere, water, soils, earths, landscapes, natural sites, biodiversity and the interactions between these elements, which may carry no repercussion for any specific human interest but affects a legitimate collective interest”.

La Cour de cassation reconnaît le préjudice écologique causé par Total à Donges; (03-25-2016)
Faisant application de sa jurisprudence Erika, la Cour reconnaît l’existence d’un préjudice écologique suite à la pollution de l’estuaire de la Loire par Total. Elle précise les modalités d’évaluation de ce préjudice…

L’Assemblée nationale inscrit définitivement la réparation du préjudice écologique dans le code civil; (06-22-2016)
La rédaction finale de l’article du projet de loi sur la biodiversité relatif à la réparation du préjudice écologique est arrêtée. La jurisprudence Erika se voit ainsi consacrée et précisée dans le code civil… L’Assemblée nationale a voté, mardi 21 juin, l’article du projet de loi sur la biodiversité qui inscrit la réparation du préjudice écologique dans le code civil. Les dispositions adoptées sont celles qui devraient figurer dans le texte définitif de la loi puisque elles ont été votées en nouvelle lecture après l’échec de la commission mixte paritaire réunie le 25 mai dernier.
Ces dispositions constituent l’une des grandes avancées de la loi de reconquête de la biodiversité.