Environmental groups including Greenpeace and Oxfam have filed an unprecedented court action against the French government, accusing it of insufficient policy actions to tackle climate change.
The groups aim to persuade the Paris Administrative court to force the government to apply its own policies, such as the multi-year energy plan, known as the PPE, and international agreements such as the 2015 Paris Climate accord.
"The state is not living up to commitments it has made itself, especially in the context of the Paris agreement of 2015," said Cecile Duflot, a former minister and current Executive Director of Oxfam France.
"The state is a litigant like any other, our goal is for it to be condemned to act," she told France Inter radio.
The court action is backed by an online petition signed by more than 2 million people and is supported by other NGOs including the Nicolas Hulot Foundation, created by a former minister and renowned environmentalist who resigned from President Emmanuel Macron's government last summer over slow progress on climate change goals..
A Greenpeace statement said that France was on the wrong track in terms of curbing its emissions of greenhouse gases, which have been on the rise since 2015.
"This wait-and-see attitude has only worsened the situation in the agriculture, transport, energy and biodiversity protection sectors, with France falling behind and now requiring a restart and strong and urgent measures," it said, adding that the government was refusing to put urgent measures in place to reach its objectives.
French Environment Minister Francois de Rugy, denied that the government was dragging its feet, adding on BFM Television that the court action would not lead to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Speaking in Kenyan capital Nairobi on the sidelines of the One Planet Summit he launched in 2017 to speed efforts to tackle climate change, President Macron said he does not believe the court action would lead anywhere.
"The solution is in all of us. On this issue, it is not the People vs. The Government. This nonsense should stop," Macron said on LCI Television.
"We all must act. Governments must act. Major enterprises must act. Investors must act. Citizens must act. All together."
A draft energy and climate law that was due to be presented to the cabinet this week has been postponed so that it can be reworked with more ambitious environmental goals.
(Reporting by Bate Felix, Marine Pennetier, Danielle Rouquié and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by David Goodman)