French MPs approve 'ecocide' offence to punish environmental damage

2021-04-18 france pollution seine river conflans-sainte-honorine factory fire
2021-04-18 france pollution seine river conflans-sainte-honorine factory fire AFP - KENZO TRIBOUILLARD

French parliament has approved a draft bill to introduce an "ecocide" offence as part of a raft of new measures to protect the environment and tackle climate change.


The ecocide draft legislation was by the passed by 44 votes to 10 in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, on Saturday. If it becomes law, it will apply to "the most serious cases of environmental damage at national level", said Environment Minister Barbara Pompili.

Transgressors will be liable to up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 4.5 million euros.

"After 110 hours of debate, the draft bill for a #ClimateResistance law has finally been approved," said Pompili. "Next step: the Senate."

Pompili stressed that the bill is aimed at national events, such as the pollution of a river in France.

"When we think of the attacks on the Amazon rainforest, that is not something we can tackle within our own laws," she said.

'Punitive ecology'

The aim is to strengthen the sanctions available to deal with "serious and durable" cases of intentional pollution of water, air or soil.

Some right-wing MPs complained about moves towards "punitive ecology. Julien Aubert of the Republicans voiced the "serious concerns" of companies facing "legal insecurity" created by such environmental justice measures.

MPs on the left judged the offence being debated insufficient to tackle the problem, highlighting that it will only apply in cases of intentional pollution and not to problems caused by negligence or recklessness.

Some opposition members complained that the very term "ecocide" was an "abuse of language", preferring a more straightforward offence of "attacking the environment".

The Assembly also gave the green light to an offence of endangering the environment, on the model of endangering life, punishable by three years in prison and a 300,000 euro fine. The amount of a whole series of fines provided for by articles of the Environmental Code may also go up to 100,000 euros.

The entire draft bill will go to the Assembly for a vote next month before heading to the upper house Senate.

(with AFP)

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