Criminalizing Ecocide: Jojo Mehta

"The reality is that current regulation is simply not stopping the harm that we're witnessing."

Jojo Mehta is the co-founder and director of Ecological Defense Integrity, a non-profit organization working to establish ecocide as a core international crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. We discuss the power of criminalizing ecocide in order to change the behavior of corporate perpetrators.

Jojo Mehta is the co-founder and director of Ecological Defense Integrity, a non-profit organization working to establish ecocide as a core international crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. We discuss the power of criminalizing ecocide in order to change the behavior of corporate perpetrators.

What is Ecocide?

The crime of ecocide is the “extensive loss, damage, or destruction of ecosystems such that their inhabitants can no longer enjoy life peacefully.” Ecocide happens on a large scale—examples include the ravaging of the Brazilian rainforest, the consequences of widespread fracking, or toxic erosion from strip-mining. Corporations perpetrate almost all ecocide and millions of people are devasted by ecocide’s effects every year. Currently, there is no legal pathway to compel corporations to stop committing ecocide.

Criminalizing Ecocide

The International Criminal Court oversees the prosecution of four crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. During its inception, the crime of ecocide was proposed but never codified thanks to pushback from countries like the US, UK, France, and the Netherlands. All of them hold significant nuclear and fossil fuel interests. Since the ICC operates on a “one nation, one vote” policy, it is conceivable for small nations directly impacted by climate change to work together and criminalize ecocide, even if larger, fossil fuel burning countries oppose it. Criminalizing ecocide on an international level holds the world’s worst polluters to account.

Shifting Public Opinion

Once something is outlawed, social stigma is quick to follow. Banning ecocide internationally, or even publicly considering doing so, leads to a shift in public opinion. As entire cultures become aware and fight against ecocide, many corporations will change their business models to meet public outcry. We already see this phenomenon around the world. Recently, the CEO of Siemens wrote a letter outlining the ways his company became greener but noted his legal duty was to his shareholders. Making ecologically devastating practices illegal will ensure that corporations change their polluting behavior.

Find out more:

Jojo Mehta is the co-founder and director of Earth Defense Integrity (EDI). EDI’s international team is working with climate- and ecocide-vulnerable states which have the power to propose an Ecocide amendment to the Rome Statute, the governing document of The ICC. The International Criminal Court’s annual Assembly in December is the critical forum for advancing this work. They have accompanied Small Island (“Great Ocean”) Developing State representatives and helped amplify their voices and concerns there for four consecutive years, as the nations most impacted by climate emergency.

You can follow her on Twitter @Jojo_Mehta.

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