France plans up to 10 years jail for ‘ecocide’ offenders

French ecological transition minister Barbara Pompili leaving the Elysée Palace on 18 November, 2020.
French ecological transition minister Barbara Pompili leaving the Elysée Palace on 18 November, 2020. © AFP/Ludovic Marin

The French government announced on Sunday the creation of an "ecocide offence" to prevent and punish serious environmental damage. Environmental offenders could be handed a fine of up to €4.5 million, or 10 years in prison.


France will make serious intentional damage to the environment punishable by up to 10 years in prison as part of planned "ecocide" law, France’s government ministers said on Sunday in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) weekly.

An "ecocide offence" would be sanctioned by up to 4.5 million euros in fines or up to 10 years in prison in cases of "intentional violation" of environmental laws, justice minister Eric Dupont-Moretti and ecological transition minister Barbara Pompili told the JDD.

The "ecocide" law was one recommendation from a Citizens' Convention on Climate, a group created by the French government a year ago, bringing together 150 people from the French population to discuss the environment.

The citizens' convention has submitted 149 proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions to President Emmanuel Macron, who said he would convert 146 of them into government policy.

"We are going to create a general pollution offence," Dupont-Moretti said. "Punishment will be staggered according to a perpetrator's intentions."

The French constitution did not allow the qualification of such actions as "crimes", just offences, Dupont-Moretti added.

France will also add an offence called "endangering the environment" to its statute books, Pompili explained, under which potential offenders could be punished even before committing acts of illegal pollution.

Environmental expertise within the French judiciary will be beefed up to allow courts to improve their handling of pollution cases and civil claims, including by creating special environmental juridictions.

Ten countries have codified ecocide as a crime within their borders during peacetime, among them Vietnam or Ukraine.

Ecocide has not yet been accepted as an internationally punishable crime by the United Nations.

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