A criminal court in Lyon found that climate activists had stolen portraits of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, out of necessity to call attention to France's failure to meet its climate targets.
The defendants were charged with fraudulently removing the portraits from a town hall in Lyon in February 2019. The prosecutor sought to impose a fine of 500 euros on each defendant. The court heard testimony from a former government minister that France has not complied with the Paris Agreement due to a lack of political will, and that only the president can order the action required by the present situation. An ecologist also testified about the necessity for rapid change in order to limit temperature rise. The defendants argued that the use of legal channels and warnings from scientific experts had not provided sufficient leverage, and they believed that acts of non-violent civil disobedience were required to raise awareness of the need for policy change.
The court agreed, finding that climate change seriously affects the future of humanity by provoking natural disasters, leading to violent conflicts, and threatening flora and fauna; and that although France is committed to certain measures to address climate change, the defense's submissions showed that the government's objectives will not be achieved. The court concluded that, under these circumstances, citizens' means of expression could not be limited to voting, and that the defendants' theft of the portrait was a necessary substitute for impossible dialogue between the government and the people. The court accordingly acquitted both defendants. A growing number of presidential portraits have been removed in France as part of a climate movement called "Take Down Macron".