French government faces daily fines for inaction on light pollution

The French state has nine months to take action to tackle light pollution before facing daily fines for further delay.

Reducing light pollution was included in a programme known as the ‘Grenelle de l’Environnement’, agreed in 2007. However, while government ministries were expected to issue decrees to implement the measures, so far none have been published.

In 2016, the three NGOs: France Nature Environnement, la Fédération Rhône-Alpes de protection de la nature (FRAPNA) and l’Association nationale pour la protection du Ciel et de l’Environnement Nocturnes (ANPCEN) referred the matter to the Ministry of Ecology. After a rejection form the Ministry they decided to turn to the Council of State who ruled into their favour on 28 March 2018.

Green groups welcomed this ruling pointing out that while the government had failed to act light pollution has been linked to various health and environmental issues.

A study published in La Revue Medicale Liege in 2015, highlights how exposure to light during night time can interfere with human health, particularly by influencing the production of melatonin.

According to the same study, animals suffer from light pollution as well. Migratory birds, which often travel during the night, can be disturbed by the presence of light, which can confuse their sense of direction and in some cases lead to death.

A thirteen-year study published by the Royal Society in 2016 revealed that light pollution causes spring to come earlier in brighter areas. They noticed that trees started to bud 7.5 days in earlier when exposed to more light.

Commenting on the publication of the study, Dr Kate Lewthwaite, citizen science manager at the Woodland Trust told the Guardian:

“As the seasons become less and less predictable, our native wildlife may struggle to keep up with fluctuations that affect habitats and food sources. Hopefully this research will lead to new thinking on how to tackle such issues, and will help influence future development decisions.”