Citizen Convention for Climate: an ambitious legal revolution under way

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As the 150 citizens of the Citizens' Climate Convention meet this weekend to validate their concrete proposals to be submitted to the government, measures have already been made public on Thursday 18 June. Among them, the amendment of Article 1 of the Constitution to make France an ecological Republic, the recognition of the crime of ecocide and the creation of a High Authority with global boundaries. These three measures would make it possible to recognize that the future of our societies is conditioned by respect for the great ecological balances of our common home. The citizens are thus inviting us to a legal revolution commensurate with the challenges of our century.

The Citizens' Convention for Climate, formed in October 2019, is an initiative decided by the President of the Republic in response to the great national debate and proposed by the Open Democracy collective and the Citizens' Vests collective, following the "yellow vests" crisis and the resonance of the Affair of the Century (1). This assembly of 150 citizens drawn at random will deliver this Sunday to the government its proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a spirit of social justice, with the hope of a referendum. A weekend at the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (EESC) for a final vote on the choices to be made but also on the financing mechanisms for these measures, three of which have already been approved.

Amendment of Article 1 of the Constitution

The citizens of the Citizens' Climate Convention have been convinced of the need to amend its Article 1. They want to add to this article that " the Republic guarantees the preservation of biodiversity, the environment and the fight against climate change ». They also propose to create an Environmental Defender, similar to the Human Rights Defender.

This echoes the powerful plea made for more than two years by the Collective "Our Ecological Constitution". (2)which further calls for the recognition of planetary limits and the principle of non-regression in Article 1 of the Constitution. This comprehensive proposal of the Collective aims to ensure that human activity does not threaten the long-term habitability of the Earth and the conditions of existence of present and future societies, by relying on the recommendations of the Stockholm Resilience Center (3) that initiated the study on these threshold effects. 

During her hearing before the Citizen Constitution for Climate Squad On January 11, Valérie Cabanes, Honorary President of Notre Affaire à Tous, tried to convince them of this. A step forward therefore, but considered as moderate by the association on the fact that the planetary limits and the principle of non-regression have not been included in the proposal to amend the Constitution of the Citizen Convention for the Climate.

Crime of Ecocide and High Authority at the Planetary Limits

Among the measures of the Citizen's Climate Convention is also the recognition of ecocide. (4). They propose a law criminalizing the crime of ecocide, understood as " any action which has caused serious ecological damage by contributing to the manifest and significant overshooting of global limits ». The Convention also proposes the creation of a High Authority for Planetary Limits to ensure its implementation.

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This ambition has long been supported by several associations. In the fall of 2019, a draft bill, co-authored by Valérie Cabanes, Paul Mougeolle of Notre Affaire à Tous and Marine Calmet of Wild Legal, was prepared as part of a transparent parliamentary reflection process. It also provided for the creation of a High Authority for Planetary Boundaries with information, expertise, consultation and warning missions to ensure that planetary limits are respected. Submitted to the citizens of the Citizen's Convention for the Climate in the form of a contribution, Valerie Cabanes was then invited in front of the "Feeding oneself" group... which today carries this proposal.

The criminalization of ecocide has therefore succeeded in convincing the majority of citizens of the Citizen's Climate Convention, who are aware of its systemic scope.

It remains to be seen whether these measures will be put to a referendum or proposed as bills in Parliament. Both perspectives may allow citizens or their elected representatives to debate them. 55 MEPs have already announced by letter to the citizens of the Convention that they support their work. and say they're ready to take it from there... to legislate it into law. And, in accordance with the Convention's mandate, the proposals adopted at the end of the debates will be recorded in a public report submitted to the Executive at the end of this session. They will also be made public live on the internet: https://propositions.conventioncitoyennepourleclimat.fr/

It should be noted, however, that the constitutional reform process is more complicated when it comes to a referendum: the initiative for revising the Constitution lies concurrently with the President of the Republic on the proposal of the Prime Minister and the members of Parliament. The draft or proposed revision must be voted on by both assemblies in identical terms. The revision is final after having been approved by referendum. There is still a long way to go ...

On this linkThese are some examples of particularly structuring and impacting proposals for climate and social justice from the Citizen's Convention for Climate on which the votes will take place during these three days. 

The debates on 19, 20 and 21 June will be broadcast live on the Citizens' Climate Convention website: https://www.conventioncitoyennepourleclimat.fr/

(1) Carried by Notre Affaire à Tous, Greenpeace France, Oxfam France and the Nicolat Hulot Foundation.
(2) Bringing together Notre Affaire à Tous, CliMates, REFEDD and WARN who launched the Appeal for an Ecological Constitution.
(3) These recommendations have been used as tools for monitoring sustainable development objectives since 2012 by the UN High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, since 2011 by the European Commission for its roadmap towards a resource-efficient Europe, and even by the French Ministry of Ecological Transition in its State of the Environment Report.
(4) The crime of ecocide is defined as any action which has caused serious ecological damage by participating in the manifest and not insignificant exceeding of planetary limits, committed with knowledge of the consequences which would result and which could not be ignored. The proposed law also defines as a crime of recklessness characterized as ecocide, any violation of a duty of prudence or safety provided for by law or regulation that caused serious ecological damage by contributing to the manifest and significant overstepping of planetary limits. Finally, it recognises that the absence of adequate and reasonable measures relating to the identification and prevention of the serious destruction of an ecosystem or the manifest and non-negligible overstepping of planetary limits is contrary to the duty of vigilance provided for in Article L. 225-102-4 of the Commercial Code.

( Sources: Notre Affaire A Tous, Climate Action Network France, Citizen Convention for Climate)

Header image Demonstrators at the Climate March in Paris on 21 September 2019. Lucas Barioulet/ AFP

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