Promised by President Chirac during the 2002 campaign for the Presidential elections, the Environmental Charter has become the third branch of the French 1958 Constitution. It has been incorporated alongside the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the Declaration of Economic and Social Rights in the Preamble of the 1946 Constitution.
France is bound at international and European levels by a number of conventions and treaties in favour of sustainable development and French environmental law is well developed. Yet, at that time, there was still a common perception that the establishment of superior constitutional fundamental principles was lacking.
The Environmental Charter was primarily adopted in order to:
- respond to and address the concerns of the French civil society;
- bring French law in line with foreign models of ‘constitutionalisation’ of environmental protection;
- address the insufficiencies of French environmental law, notably with regard to the place held by environmental principles in the hierarchy of French legal norms; and
- give constitutional force to environmental protection as a human right.
Since its adoption by both Houses of Parliament, everyone living in France “…has the right to live in an environment which is balanced and respectful of health” (Article 1). Such right is not a statutory right but a right that has been attached to the 1958 Constitution. It has thus been given equal status and force to the set of rights contained in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and in the Preamble to the 1946 Constitution. These were incorporated into the so-called “bloc de constitutionalité” (the block of constitutional provisions) by the Constitutional Court in the early 1970s.
The Charter provisions are protected, interpreted and enforced by the Constitutional Court as well as the administrative and ordinary courts. It applies to all persons, natural and legal, private and public, and can be used as an instrument for interpretation of all international environmental treaties and conventions signed by France.
This paper examines the process of the ‘constitutionalisation’ of the Charter and discusses its content.
Dadomo, C. (2017). The "constitutionalisation" of French environmental law under the 2004 Environmental Charter. In E. Daly, L. Kotze, J. May, & C. Soyapi (Eds.), New Frontiers in Environmental Constitutionalism, 146-159. UNEP