At the end of April 2021, the European Parliament will vote on the possibility to equate ecocide to genocide. The term 'ecocide' is defined as the damaging or destruction of ecosystems. Activists from all over Europe, who have pushed for Europe to take action with legislation on the matter, believe in the significant role played by ecocide crimes in shaping the climate and ecological emergencies Europe and the entire world are facing at this time.
Examples of what a law about Ecocide should cover include: damages to the ocean (industrial fishing, petrol dispersions, plastic pollution, mineral extractions in the sea), deforestation (industrial breeding, mineral extraction, production of palm oil and wood), water and seed contamination (petrol dispersions, mineral extractions, mountains damages, oil sands, fracking, chemical products for textile industry), air pollution (chemical disasters and weapons, radioactive contamination, industrial emissions).
Many European leaders believe in the necessity to implement legislation with respect to damages to the environment. Among them Emmanuel Macron (French President) stated “the mother of all battles is to include ecocide in the international laws, so that leaders are responsible according to the International Criminal Court.” In November 2019, Pope Francis also highlighted the necessity to make Ecocide and internationally recognized crime. In December 2019, the Maldives officially asked the International Crime Court to “take in serious consideration” the introduction of Ecocide as a crime. In March 2020, the labor movement in Sweden asked for Ecocide to become a crime recognized by the International Crime Court. In July 2020 the Belgian Green parties introduced a bill to make Ecocide a crime recognized by the International Criminal Court In September 2020 Valerie Cabanes, an Advisory Board member of the “Stop Ecocide” non-governmental association, had an audience with Pope Francis in which she asked him to recognize ecocide as a “fifth category of crimes against peace.” In October 2020 the new coalition government in Belgium set out its program, which includes strong action towards the criminalization of ecocide on national and international levels. In October 2020 also Sweden discussed criminalizing ecocide, with three parties submitting two separate notions to the Swedish parliament to act on this matter.
The term 'ecocide' was used for the first time in 1972 by the Swedish prime minister Olof Palmer who condemn the American government’s choice to use the Agent Orange (Chemical compound) during the Vietnam war. The Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and the Scottish writer and activist Polly Higgins (leader of the “Stop Ecocide” movement) were key figures in pushing European countries to reflect and start considering Ecocide as a real crime. The EU Parliament’s voting this April will cover the liability of companies for environmental damage, and with a majority voting for the adoption of an overall framework directive on environmental offenses and proportionate sanctions, EU member states will be called up on to set up or reinforce specialized units within their national police services at the appropriate levels for the investigation of environmental offenses.