The Case for an Ecocide Law

The Case for an Ecocide Law

Jojo Mehta

Co-founder: Stop Ecocide

There are legal penalties for destruction of private property. What should the penalty be for destroying the environment? Join Jojo Mehta as she explores the case for legally recognising ecocide.

There are legal penalties for destruction of private property. What should the penalty be for destroying the environment? Join Jojo Mehta as she explores the case for legally recognising ecocide.

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The Case for an Ecocide Law

7 mins 26 secs

Overview

Ecocide refers to deliberate acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of damage to the environment. There are a plethora of pledges, regulations and legislation that aim to protect the environment. However, most are not legally binding, are badly or inconsistently followed, woefully monitored, poorly enforced and open to corruption. Recognising ecocide in criminal law could prove to be a muscular, concrete and practical way to respond to the climate and ecological crisis. Passing ecocide into criminal law will help deter, prevent and protect.

Key learning objectives:

  • Define ecocide

  • Understand why current legislation is not adequate

  • Outline the case to legally recognise ecocide

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Summary
What is ecocide? 
Ecocide refers to unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts. 

Why is current legislation not adequate? 
When it comes to addressing the global climate and environmental crisis, there are major multilateral environmental agreements, targets and pledges in place, such as the Paris agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Global Biodiversity Framework and the Leaders’ Pledge. These are all important, and, if all were fully followed, would have remarkable results. Unfortunately, none of these are binding. This means we are in a global situation where laws pertaining to the protection of the environment are not taken seriously enough. Agricultural companies have claimed that existing regulations are often ignored because it’s cheaper not to tick the boxes and nobody is checking. A large number of corporations simply don’t really know what to do in the face of a global crisis of this scale. Something stronger is needed (such as criminal law) to provide a foundational shift in the way we think. 

What is the case for legally recognising genocide? 
Criminal law is generally thought of as a framework for punishment, creating personal criminal responsibility and prosecuting perpetrators for acts that society condemns. But criminal law is there to deter, prevent and protect. There are moments in history when society begins to recognise something as unacceptable and therefore worthy of prohibition in criminal law. If we have the courage to look, we are witnessing a similar moment right now with respect to destruction of the living world around us and the vital ecosystems that make up our common home, the Earth. For example, there has been a nearly 70% decline in wildlife since 1970, along with the apocalyptic decline of insects. 

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Jojo Mehta

Jojo Mehta

Jojo Mehta, co-founder of Stop Ecocide, has overseen the movement's growth since its inception in 2017. The organisation aims to recognise "ecocide" as a crime at the International Criminal Court. Jojo is also the Chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation and convenor of the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide. The movement has gathered collaboration from various stakeholders, including diplomats, politicians, lawyers, academics, corporate influencers, indigenous and faith leaders, NGOs, and grassroots campaigns. Legal recognition of ecocide is seen as a key solution to the climate and ecological crisis

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