“Designation of international ecocide would send a strong signal”

08.09.21 | News
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Should the Nordic Region support demands for an international law that criminalises large-scale environmental destruction? This proposal was raised and discussed by Nordic parliamentarians in the Sustainability Committee during their September meeting.

Having the International Court of Justice in The Hague prosecute not only those suspected of war crimes and genocide but also large-scale environmental crimes is an idea first mooted some 50 years ago.

The idea of an international ecocidal crime is once again relevant in light of the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis.   

The world would listen

“Environmental and climate issues are no longer a side business but a central part of all decision-making. More and more world leaders have realised that ambitious legislation is required that puts the planet first ahead of short-term gains. The Nordic Region has already shown that economic development is possible even alongside relatively strict environmental legislation. Consequently, the world will listen to us if we wholeheartedly succeed in pushing the issue of international ecocidal legislation,” says Ålandic parliamentarian Simon Holmström and one of those who raised the proposal. 

Young Nordic people demand inclusion of ecocidal crime

The same is being discussed even within the EU, with Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron both in favour. The UN Secretary General has expressed his support and during the summer, an international group of lawyers has worked on the definition of ‘ecocidal crime’. 

When the youth network Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network submitted its recommendations to the UN negotiations on a new biodiversity agreement this spring, and international ecocidal crime was one of the proposals tabled. 

Model law for EU

The members of the Nordic sustainability committee invited Italian lawyer Fausto Pocar who, on the initiative of the European Law Institute, is working on getting ecocide recognised as a crime at the International Court of Justice and developing a ‘model law’ for the EU.  

“The signal effect of an international ecocidal crime would be huge. But people need to be aware that this will take time to bring about. This is why it’s important that the EU and the Member States also have legislation on ecocide. If there’s one thing that environment and climate researchers are saying right now, it’s that we have to act very quickly if we’re to save the environment and the climate,” says Fausto Pocar.

Desire for more knowledge

At its meeting on 7 September, the committee was not prepared to back the proposal that the Nordic Region pursue making ecocide an international crime. The members wanted more information and decided to arrange a mini seminar.  

The proposal was raised by Rebecka Le Moine of Sweden and Simon Holmström of Åland. The proposal can be read here: