By Juliet Dunstone
What’s going on here?
The EU has agreed to update their international environmental laws to criminalise harmful environmental actions. This could mean corporations that cause serious environmental harm may end up with key staff members facing arrest and prison time.
What does this mean?
Ecocide is defined by Stop Ecocide International as “the mass damage and destruction of the natural living world – severe harm to nature which is widespread or long-term”. The decision made by the EU means that large scale environmental damage will become a criminal offence. The directive is expected to be formally passed in Spring 2024, and then individual countries within the EU would have 2 years to implement it into their own national laws. More ecocide bills are currently being proposed in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and Scotland.
Why should we care?
Currently, most environmental damage is punished with large fines. However, big corporations have so much money they can afford to pay the fine and carry on with ‘business as usual’. In contrast, making the damage a criminal offence could mean CEOs or key decision makers at those corporations were arrested, which would remove their social licence to operate. In other words, it would make the company look very, very bad in the public eye. This means big businesses would have much more incentive to comply with environmental laws.