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  • Writer's picturePeers for the Planet

Peers briefed on proposals to make Ecocide a crime

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Professor Philippe Sands KC, Co-Chair of the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide, briefed Peers in Parliament about the creation of a new crime of Ecocide.

The concept of Ecocide has been circulating since the first UN conference on the environment in 1972 in Stockholm, where, off the back of the environmental destruction of the Vietnam War, the idea of criminalising mass damage and destruction of ecosystems at a global level began gaining traction.

Cross-party Peers were briefed on the history of Ecocide, including the role of Polly Higgins – a barrister who campaigned for many years for Ecocide to be included as an international crime. Professor Sands outlined the background of the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute – which currently contains genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression – and explained how ecocide could be included within this as a fifth crime.

There was a discussion about other nations’ reaction to the expert panel’s definition of ecocide, and about the potential applicability of ecocide in UK and international law. Prof. Sands said that the UN Chief, the Pope, Emmanuel Macron and 12 other governments had welcomed it so far; and specifically:

  • Belgium was in the process of adopting the crime of Ecocide and was committed to supporting its inclusion into international law;

  • In the UK, Camden Council passed a unanimous cross-party decision to be first council to adopt the ecocide definition;

  • Several other Parliaments are due to debate the issue, such as in Italy, the Netherlands, Mexico and Brazil.

In the recent Lords Private Members Bill Ballot, Baroness Boycott was successful with her Ecocide Bill proposal and will introduce this to Parliament on the 20 November 2023.


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