Belgium has become the first country in Europe to criminalise ecocide on a national and international level.

Ecocide is gaining traction, great to see.

Scottish Legal News

A new penal code backed by Belgium’s federal parliament yesterday provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years for individuals guilty of ecocide, and fines of up to €1.6 million for corporations.

Under Belgium’s federal system, the scope of the new law is limited to areas within the jurisdiction of the federal authority, including the North Sea and nuclear waste management.

However, Stop Ecocide Belgium said recent progress on an EU level is likely to “significantly reduce any disparities between federal and regional environmental criminal laws”.

Patricia Willocq, director of Stop Ecocide Belgium, added: “Belgium is now at the forefront of a truly global conversation around criminalising the most severe harms to nature and must continue to advocate for the recognition of ecocide at the International Criminal Court, alongside genocide.

“In order to fully protect nature, it is necessary that those that would wilfully destroy vast swathes of the natural world, in turn causing untold human harm, should be criminalised. We will continue to campaign to eradicate ecocide from Belgium and the world.”

Belgium is the first European country to recognise ecocide as an international crime, based on the consensus definition proposed in 2021 by the independent expert panel (IEP) convened by the Stop Ecocide Foundation.

Jojo Mehta, CEO and co-founder of Stop Ecocide International, said: “Belgium has demonstrated strong leadership today not only on a national level, but on behalf of all of us who are made more vulnerable and whose livelihoods are directly threatened when the most powerful in society make decisions that result in mass-scale environmental destruction.

“There is real momentum growing around the ecocide law conversation at every level currently. We’ve seen a growing list of states take concrete steps towards establishing new domestic crimes of ecocide in the last year, including the Netherlands, Scotland, Mexico, Brazil, England, Italy and Spain.

“With prominent voices like that of Belgium leading the way, tangible progress is being made internationally, particularly so in Europe following last November’s agreement to include ecocide-level crimes in the EU’s revised environmental crimes directive.

“I have no doubt we’ll see international recognition of the crime of ecocide in the near future.”