France: Climate litigation against oil giant Total can continue after 2-year legal fight regarding jurisdiction
"Climate litigation against Total: the Versailles Court of Appeal confirms the jurisdiction of the judicial court", 18 Nov 2021
In January 2020, a coalition of NGOs and local authorities took Total to the Nanterre judicial court. They request a judicial injunction against the oil company to take the necessary measures to comply with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, in accordance with the French Law of 27 March 2017 on the Duty of Vigilance and the provisions of the French Civil Code on ecological damage.
Delaying the proceedings, Total did not respond on the merits and asked that the case be referred to the commercial court, a court composed of company directors and dealing with business-related disputes. The judge of first instance dismissed Total’s objection last February, recalling the nature and objectives of the corporate duty of vigilance.
In [the November 2021 ruling] the Versailles Court of Appeal confirmed this judgment. It relies on the exclusive jurisdiction of certain judicial courts in matters of ecological damage, recalling “the legislator’s intention to entrust actions relating to ecological damage to specially designated judicial courts only“.
This ruling comes at a time when the French Parliament has also just entrusted litigation initiated on the basis of the Law on the Duty of Vigilance to the Paris judicial court.