European Parliament calls on EU to protect a healthy environment
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European Parliament calls on EU to protect a healthy environment

Credit: Unsplash/Marcin Jozwiak

A number of members of the parliament across the major political groups sent this week an open letter to the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission to support the recognition of the right to a healthy environment, both internationally and at the European level.

The letter, initiated by French MEP Marie Toussaint (Greens/EFA) and supported by 69 MEPs, was also addressed to the current Portuguese Presidency and its successor during the second half of 2021, Slovenia.

In their letter of 1 March, the MEPs recall that the EP last October called on the EU and the member states to support the global recognition of the right to a healthy environment at next UN General Assembly. In fact, 156 States throughout the world have already established a legal recognition of the right to a healthy environment.

The threats to a healthy  environment, such as environmental degradation, deforestation, air pollution, forced displacements due to extreme weather events, destruction of entire ecosystems, industrial activities or land use planning are damaging the health of many populations throughout the world.

“We are convinced that human rights cannot be properly protected without a real protection of nature, as both must be done hand in hand. Indeed, the crisis the world is facing today reminds us of the interdependence between human rights and the protection of the Earth and its boundaries.”

According to the MEPs, the Council and the Commission should take concrete actions in EU’s trade and diplomatic relationships in order to guarantee the effectiveness of the right to a healthy environment, not only for European citizens but also for all the world citizens. EU should also work on policies ensuring the enforcement of this right.

For the time being, there is no written legal text at the European level for the recognition of this right but one possible path, according to the letter, would be to work on an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Marie Toussaint is also founder of the International Alliance of parliamentarians for the recognition of Ecocide. An international Ecocide Alliance was created in 2020, aiming at criminalising intentional damage to the planet, such as the fires in the Amazon rainforests and the destruction of ecosystems.

Asked by The Brussels Times about how to go ahead with legislation on Ecocide, she replied that the ideal for the EU would be to adopt an Ecocide Regulation. There is also an opportunity to move towards the recognition of Ecocide within the revision later this year of the EU directive (2008/89/EC) on the protection of the environment through penal law.

The directive requires member states to treat as criminal offences certain activities that breach EU environmental legislation.

Another EU directive (2014/95/EU), the non-financial reporting directive (NFRD), lays down the rules on disclosure of non-financial and diversity information by large companies and will be modified in the coming months. She adds that she is working for that European banks, that have been financing activities damaging to the environment, to be held accountable and to be included in legislation to halt deforestation in the world.

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times