From the Pope to Greta Thunberg, there are growing calls for the crime of “ecocide” to be recognised in international criminal law – but could such a law ever work?
Read the full article on BBC Future by Sophie Yeo
Photo credit: Getty Images
Excerpts from the article:
By adding a fifth crime of ecocide to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the perpetrators of environmental destruction would suddenly be liable to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment. But it would also help to create a cultural shift in how the world perceives acts of harm towards nature, says Jojo Mehta, co-founder of the Stop Ecocide campaign.
“If something’s a crime, we place it below a moral red line. At the moment, you can still go to the government and get a permit to frack or mine or drill for oil, whereas you can’t just get a permit to kill people, because it’s criminal,” she says. “Once you set that parameter in place, you shift the cultural mindset as well as the legal reality.”
Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, who has become one of ecocide’s highest profile supporters. Earlier this year, more than 99% of the French citizens’ assembly, a group of 150 people selected by lot to guide the country’s climate policy, voted to make ecocide a crime. That prompted Macron to announce that the government would consult with legal experts on how to incorporate it into French law. But he went further. “The mother of all battles is international: to ensure that this term is enshrined in international law so that leaders… are accountable before the International Criminal Court,” he responded to the assembly.
Elsewhere in Europe, Belgium’s two Green parties have introduced an ecocide bill that proposes addressing the issue at both a national and international level – an idea that also has support among Swedish parliamentarians. “We have all the conventions, we have all the goals. But the beautiful visions must go from paper into action,” said Rebecka Le Moine, the Swedish MP who submitted a motion to her national parliament. “If these actions should be anything more than goodwill or activism, it must become law.”
Pope Francis has also called for ecocide to be recognised as a crime by the international community, and Greta Thunberg has backed the cause too, donating €100,000 (£90,000) in personal prize winnings to the Stop Ecocide Foundation.