The European Union has passed a law that criminalizes some of the most serious forms of environmental damage. Although the text of the law does not use the word “ecocide,” its preamble says that it intends to criminalize “cases comparable to ecocide.”
The law is part of a growing global movement to formally ban polluting companies from harming our planet.
The Mexican government was the latest to propose such a law which, if it passes, would see Mexico join Vietnam, Russia, Ukraine, and France, all of which have criminalized ecocide — formally defined as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.”
The EU law should be formalized next spring, at which point we will have to wait and see how exactly, and against whom, it is enforced.
The text of the law mentions water abstraction, ship recycling and pollution, the introduction and spread of invasive alien species, and ozone destruction (the Guardian notes that it does not mention fishing, the export of toxic waste to developing countries, or carbon market fraud).
The law also introduces penalties, such as prison sentences for individuals and exclusion from access to public funds for companies, as well as fines for polluting companies. EU member states will have the ability to decide how to enforce the law and which penalties to levy.
“This text marks the end of impunity for environmental criminals,” Marie Toussaint, a French lawyer and Member of European Parliament who was involved in the law’s creation, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
En mars, le #ParlementEuropéen avait voté pour la reconnaissance de l'écocide.— Marie Toussaint 🌍🌏 (@marietouss1) November 16, 2023
Depuis, nous avons négocié avec les états membres pour adopter définitivement cette proposition.
Et c'est fait ! Ce texte signe la fin de l'impunité pour les criminels environnementaux️⤵️
“This is highly significant and to be wholeheartedly commended, and we can see from the rapidly growing momentum of the ecocide law initiative that European states will not be long in engaging more deeply with it in their own jurisdictions,” Jojo Mehta, co-founder and executive director of Stop Ecocide International, told the Guardian. “Indeed, I have no doubt that … it is only a matter of time before ecocide is recognised in criminal law at every level.”
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