The new chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal specialized in emerging litigation held its first hearing on March 5th, 2024.

07 March 2024

A pioneer with its “duty of vigilance” (devoir de vigilance) law, France has confirmed its determination to act in this field by creating a specialized chamber to handle litigation arising from the duty of vigilance.

In early 2024, the Paris Court of Appeal announced the creation of a new chamber specialized in emerging litigation[1] , which held its first hearing on March 5th, 2024.  

This new chamber, located within the economic division, has jurisdiction over litigation relating to the duty of vigilance,[2]CSRD sustainability reporting,[3]environmental liability,[4] as well as appeals against interim relief and pre-trial orders in these matters.[5]

The inauguration of this chamber illustrates the Paris Court of Appeal’s intention to “better highlight the interactions between the Paris Court of Appeal and the economic sphere”, which had led to the creation of the Economic Justice Council (Conseil de justice économique) of the Paris Court of Appeal on November 30th, 2023.[6] 

In a context where the legal issues surrounding corporate responsibility are increasingly significant, this initiative is particularly welcome.

Indeed, the specialization of a chamber with national jurisdiction should guarantee unified caselaw across its various fields of jurisdiction and contribute to better legal certainty for businesses.

The stakes are high since, for this first hearing, the new chamber was hearing three cases concerning the duty of vigilance of TotalEnergies, Suez and EDF.

As a reminder, the law of March 27th, 2017, imposes in France a duty of vigilance on large companies concerning environmental, social, and governance matters. Companies with at least 5,000 employees in France or 10,000 worldwide must establish and implement a “vigilance plan” (plan de vigilance). Failure to comply with these obligations can result in liability for the companies.

In the three cases brought to the hearing on March 5th, 2024, the companies involved are being accused by local authorities and NGOs of the non-conformity of their vigilance plans with environmental stakes.

TotalEnergies, Suez and EDF cases

The TotalEnergies case involves accusations of the company’s vigilance plan failing to align with the Paris Agreement’s objective of limiting global warming to below 1.5°C due to its pursuit of new hydrocarbon exploration projects.

Concerning Suez and EDF cases, the criticisms revolve around projects undertaken in Chile and Mexico, respectively. Suez is accused of repeated failures in one of its plants in Chile, affecting the drinking water network. EDF faces allegations of failing to consult indigenous populations regarding a wind farm project in Mexico.

Before ruling on the merits of these matters, the Paris Judiciary Tribunal (Tribunal judiciaire) had dismissed several requests in these cases, considering that the plaintiffs – local authorities and NGOs – were not admissible to take legal action.[7] In one of these cases, for instance, the Tribunal ruled that the obligation to issue a formal notice had not been fulfilled by the plaintiffs because their formal notice did not target the same vigilance plan as their lawsuit. In another case, the Tribunal ruled that certain local authorities, including the cities of Paris and New York, lacked standing, as their territories were deemed not directly affected.

These much-discussed rulings provided some initial insights into the law on the duty of vigilance.

Stakes surrounding the upcoming decisions

The Court of Appeal will have to rule on the admissibility of the actions brought by the local authorities and NGOs, who argue in particular that the Judiciary Tribunal did not correctly assess the facts of the case and applied a “conciliation phase” requirement not provided for by the law[8].

This is an essential question! The solution will determine the engagement of litigation likely to develop.

Alerion Climate Litigation Observatory is closely monitoring the development of these cases.

[1] Paris Court of Appeal, Création d’une chambre des contentieux émergents – devoir de vigilance et responsabilité écologique à la CA de Paris, January 18th, 2024,

[2] Suits relating to the duty of vigilance of parent companies and contractors based on Articles L. 225-102-4 and L. 225-102-5 of the French Commercial Code.

[3] Corporate sustainability reporting, Directive (EU) 2022/2464 of the European Parliament and of the Council of December 14, 2022.

[4] Suits based on Article L. 211-20 of the French Code of Judicial Organization in cases that are or appear to be of significant complexity, notably due to the large number of parties, the technical nature of the dispute, its originality, or the geographical extent of ecological loss.

[5] Paris Court of Appeal, PÔLE 5 – Economique et commercial, February 5th, 2024,

[6] Paris Court of Appeal, Conseil de justice économique, December 5th, 2023,

[7] Paris Judiciary Tribunal, July 6th, 2023, no. 22/03403, TotalEnergies SE (Total – Climat); Paris Judiciary Tribunal, June 1st, 2023, no. 22/07100, SUEZ SA; Paris Judiciary Tribunal, November 30th, 2021, no. 20/10246, EDF.

[8] Sherpa, Crucial hearing in the climate litigation against TotalEnergies, March 4th, 2024,