Story at a glance

  • Ecocide refers to committing an act with knowledge of potentially harmful consequences to the environment.
  • A panel commissioned by the Stop Ecocide Foundation established a legal definition for ecocide for the first time.
  • The panel is urging countries to accept the definition as an international crime under the Rome Statute.

If you don’t know what ecocide means, don’t worry, neither did some of the world’s foremost lawyers until very recently, when a panel established a legal definition for the crime. 

“For the purpose of this Statute, ‘ecocide’ means 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,” said the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide in a proposal to make ecocide an international crime. 


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“This is an historic moment. This expert panel came together in direct response to a growing political appetite for real answers to the climate and ecological crisis. The moment is right - the world is waking up to the danger we are facing if we continue along our current trajectory,” Jojo Mehta, Chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation and convenor of the panel, said in a release.  

It was a member of the Swedish Parliament, Rebecka Le Moine, who reportedly approached the Stop Ecocide Foundation with a request for a definition of ecocide, prompting a panel to propose the definition as a potential fifth international crime, including genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. 


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“I welcome this definition, as it makes the term ecocide more concrete and clear, it also makes it a lot easier for me as a politician and a lawmaker to find support for criminalization of it,” said Le Moine in the release.   

Other global politicians, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have signaled general agreement with the principle, but any amendment to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court would require the support of a two-thirds majority of the states parties as well as ratification by seven-eighths of the states parties, any of whom may withdraw if they do not ratify. 


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Published on Jun 23, 2021