On March 29 2023, the European Parliament proposed the inclusion of “ecocide” to the Parliament’s proposed Directive on Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law, following the unanimous vote by Legal Affairs Committee on March 21, 2023. The proposed texts states: “When an environmental criminal offence causes severe and either widespread or long-term or irreversible damage to the quality of air, the quality of soil or the quality of water, or to biodiversity, ecosystems services and functions, animals or plants, this should be considered a crime of particular gravity, and sanctioned as such in accordance with the legal systems of the Member States, covering ecocide, for which the United Nations are currently working on an official international definition” (recital). It also mandates member states to ensure that those gravest crimes are sanctioned accordingly in their legal systems. This is the first time that such a definition has been included in legislation for the EU.
If the proposal is accepted, all EU Member States would be required to include ecocide in national legislation. Also, because the EU makes up almost a quarter of States in the International Criminal Court, it would be a major step towards international recognition of “ecocide” as a crime. For “ecocide” to be definitively recognized in law, it will need agreement from the three EU institutions via a consultation process known as “trilogue” negotiations – the European Parliament (promulgators); the European Council; the European Commission.