Today is Blog Action Day – bloggers worldwide are writing about the environment as a mass consciousness-raising exercise – so spread the word.
As public consultation (see above photo of Nathalie Kosiusko-Morizet, junior minister for the environment, video-conferencing on Second Life last week) on propositions of the Grenelle continues across France, I wanted to focus on one of the areas which has received less attention in the media but which could potentially bring about significant change. Working group number 5, entitled “Building an ecological democracy: Institutions and Governance”, is all about improving transparency and accountability through legal reforms which would confer institutional status on NGOs and significantly increase the public’s ability to obtain compensation for environment-related health problems.
Some of the stand-out propositions are:
– Class action suits for victims of environmental damage. Right now the class action is illegal in France, and the Medef, the main business lobby, is fiercely opposed to this in principle, but President Nicolas Sarkozy could override their oppostion
– A new law to protect whistle-blowers on environmental or health issues (along the lines of protection enshrined in Sarbanes-Oxley), improved procedures for processing alerts by circumventing the vertical chain of command in a company and going direct to health or environmental agencies concerned
– Official recognition for NGOs as actors and partners in the social dialogue between governments, employers and workers. Reform of the Conseil Économique et Social (Economic and Social Council) which is France’s third most important constitutional assembly to include NGOs as part of the process of formulating recommendations for bills to be submitted for approval in parliament