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France wants to make hurting the planet illegal, but what is ecocide?

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France wants to make hurting the planet illegal, but what is ecocide?
Environmental damage could be criminalised   -   Copyright  Canva
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Damaging the environment could become a crime in France after a citizens' assembly voted to include criminalising 'ecocide' in its recommendations for the government.

A group of 150 randomly selected French citizens voted last Sunday on its final proposals for combatting the climate crisis. Among the proposals is a suggestion to make ‘ecocide’ (extensive damage to ecosystems) an offence punishable by law.

The Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat (CCC) was convened by President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 following the gilet jaunes movement. “We do not include our fellow citizens sufficiently in the transparent, debated construction of the solutions we put forward. So that is the idea behind the Citizens’ Assembly process,” Macron said at a meeting of the CCC in January.

The 150 members were selected using randomly generated phone numbers and are made up of a diverse group aged between 16 and 80. Macron set them the task of defining climate actions that would lead to a reduction of “at least 40 per cent of emissions by 2030” with the “spirit of social justice”.

At the forefront of the CCC's suggestions is a call for ‘ecocide’, or the extensive damage of ecosystems, to become a crime in France. The group suggests that the decision to introduce climate protections into French law should be made by a referendum.

Making ‘ecocide’ a crime will allow “planetary limits” for global warming, such as the 1.5 maximum proposed by the IPCC, to be enforced by a “higher authority” responsible for protecting the environment.

Making ecocide illegal creates a legal duty of care for the environment giving it rights. It would make those who commission, the destruction of the natural world, like chief executives and government ministers, criminally liable.

A bill featuring similar measures to make “the serious and lasting damage to the environment” a crime was rejected by the French Senate in 2019.

The CCC has presented its proposals to protect the environment to Minister for Ecological Transition, Elisabeth Borne, and will meet with French president on the 29th June.

Speaking to La Journal du dimanche, Borne said she was in favour of a referendum on the CCC’s recommendations saying it would make it possible to “share the work” of the convention with the French people.

What else is the CCC recommending?

Among the other proposals from the CCC are calls for an end to adverts for products with a high carbon footprint - like large SUV vehicles, heavy taxes on highly processed foods and a ban on the most dangerous pesticides by 2035.

They are also recommending measures to limit car usage with more sustainable transport options and a ban on the sale of new cars with high emissions from 2025. There are nearly 150 final proposals that have been agreed by the CCC.

The introduction of a four day work week with working hours limited to 28 per week was the only proposal not adopted into the final list of suggestions. One member of the group said they were worried that it would make them “look like clowns”.

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