Citizens’ initiative aims to end ecocide in Europe

Tom Lawson

The destruction of ecosystems in Europe could be criminalised if campaigners are successful

Damaging ecosystems in Europe could become a crime if a new citizens’ initiative is successful in its year-long campaign to establish a continent-wide ecocide law.

The End Ecocide in Europe (EEE) initiative was set up by a committee of 11 citizens from nine European countries with the aim of criminalising ecocide through the creation of a European directive – a goal which member states must adhere to by adapting their laws.

The proposed legal definition of ecocide is “the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of an ecosystem of a given territory,” which could include the impact of activities such as hydraulic fracking.

The ecocide directive would prohibit, prevent and pre-empt ecocide in any EU territory and committed by any EU citizens or EU registered companies. It would also cover the impact of products imported to the EU and financial investments made by EU banks, and would therefore have global repercussions.

Proposed as a European Citizens’ Initiative – a programme introduced in the EU in 2009 to enable citizens to propose EU legislation – EEE needs to collect one million signatures of support from at least seven different European countries.

“Once we have achieved our target, the European commission will have to consider our proposal,” said Valérie Cabanes, spokesperson for EEE. “If it is found compatible with the European legal frame, the commission will then submit the proposal to the European parliament who may agree to vote for a new directive. But we need European citizens to become a stronger lobby than industrial ones; we need to become a massive wave of change.”

Campaigners believe that a law in Europe would help ongoing efforts to make ecocide the fifth international crime against peace along with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. This would mean that those committing ecocide would be tried by the International Criminal Court.

EEE launched at the European parliament in Brussels on 22 January 2013 and has until 21 January 2014 to collect enough signatures. So far over 18,000 European citizens have supported the initiative.

Environment lawyer Polly Higgins proposed the Law of Ecocide to the UN in April 2010, requesting that the Rome Statute be amended when it comes up for review in the next couple of years.

“Supporting the Law of Ecocide is a wonderful opportunity for the EU to uphold its belief in peace,” said Higgins. “The EU won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, and a Law of Ecocide is a law that will carry us all forward into a world where business and politics work from the premise, ‘first do no harm’.”

Photo title: Environment lawyer Polly Higgins (left), with MEPs at the launch of the End Ecocide in Europe initiative, Brussels, January 2013

Photo credit: © End Ecocide in Europe

  • Phil Smith

    we need more promotion and ease of access to enable the people to give the “signatures” – i cant see a link (for instance) to sign or find a way to do so !

  • Natalie

    The petition to support this great initiative can be signed here http://www.endecocide.eu

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  • Mike Wheeler

    The link is under ‘More Information’ immediately below the article.

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  • Graham

    Agree with Phil. Not just in this article but in general this has to be the least known, best hidden and hardest to support campaign online, despite the fact that the proposition has been knocking around for a couple of years now. I’d like the people responsible to hand it over to Avaaz or another organisation which who knows how to mobilise support, get the message out and collect large numbers of signatures in a short time. 18,000 in 3 months is not going to do it!

  • bruggeman marie-claire

    can you contact AVAAZ to reach the 1 million signers very quickly !!!!!!!!!!

    this is a good and necessary initiative, but I can t find the place to sign !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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