The submission was made in follow up to the outcomes of COP28 and in the context of the then ongoing meeting of the ICC Assembly of State Parties. It highlights the current impunity with which senior executives of fossil fuel companies and other individuals continue to pursue deliberate campaigns of disinformation in relation to climate change.
“The main goal of the submission is to save children’s lives,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay, who signed the submission on behalf of the WCC.
“In summary, the WCC submits that the limitations in the current international criminal framework contribute to the problem of impunity for deliberate acts of disinformation that imperil hundreds of millions of people globally, especially members of vulnerable communities,” Rev. Pillay stated. “Those who are found responsible for knowingly contributing to these impacts should be held accountable in the international arena for such morally reprehensible and globally destructive conduct.”
The WCC submission notes that the history of impunity for climate disinformation serves to encourage others to continue to speak and act without regard to the truth.
"Without urgent intervention in relation to the spread of disinformation, lobbyists are likely to continue to undermine political will for the necessary action, emissions are likely to continue to increase, and the effects of climate change are likely to accelerate with catastrophic effects for people and the planet,” reads the text.
Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, WCC programme director for Public Witness and Diakonia, explained: “Many decision makers who are still financing or promoting fossil fuel extraction today, despite its consequences on children and future generations, are encouraged and enabled to do so by climate disinformation.”
The submission calls for the Rome Statute to be amended to address these concerns, urging the ICC Assembly of State Parties to “bring the Rome Statute in line with its historic rationale to protect civilians from those actions which most egregiously and extensively transgress fundamental values”. It emphasizes that crimes against humanity ought to include causing widespread and systematic human suffering through deliberate climate disinformation, pointing out that the reported conduct of (those) who deliberately promoted disinformation should also be of concern to the international community as a whole due to its widespread and irreversible consequences, which go far beyond national borders, and impact communities, ecosystems, and future generations globally.“
In reply to the WCC’s submission, the President of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, expressed appreciation for the WCC’s “thorough analysis and reflections on this important topic”. She noted that this year’s 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute serves as an opportunity to consider ways to strengthen the ICC system, “including amendments through its legal framework and the adoption of new crimes. including in relation to the protection of the environment.”The WCC’s submission would, she affirmed, help inform this ongoing discussion.
Welcoming this affirmative response by the President of the ICC Assembly of States Parties, WCC Director of International Affairs Peter Prove nevertheless stressed the absolute urgency of action on this matter. ”Climate science tells us that CO2 emissions must peak by 2025 and fall rapidly thereafter, and that any new fossil fuel extraction projects are incompatible with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C global warming threshold”, he stressed. “Meanwhile, promoters of climate disinformation continue to weaken political will, and to encourage the approval of major new fossil fuel projects, with outrageous impunity for the global harm they are causing.”
Because it takes time to adapt legal frameworks to the consequences of climate disinformation, WCC’s Child Rights Programme has started to build the capacity of churches and partners on the power of climate-responsible banking choices. “Asking banks and pension funds for transparency, and verifying that assets are not fueling the climate crisis is a very powerful lever to accelerate climate solutions,” said Frederique Seidel, who leads the WCC Child Rights Programme. “It is our moral duty to protect children and future generations from the consequences of climate disinformation.”