In June 2021 an Independent Expert Panel agreed on a definition of “ecocide” as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts”. If this definition is adopted as a fifth crime in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), this would make “ecocide” an offence for which individuals can be prosecuted before the ICC, with the same level of gravity as genocide and war crimes. A recognition of ecocide as an offence at national level could provide a further tool to hold those responsible for environmental harm to account. However, it is not just ecosystems that are being destroyed without prosecution today. The world of work is paying a high price in terms of environmental damage and climate change, especially in the global South. In this sense, this discussion will not only aim at exploring the potential for such a new offence for trade unions, but also how the consequences of a finding of ecocide – such as the stoppage of activities that may have implications for jobs – can be reconciled with the goal of just transition.
Professor Philippe Sands QC, University College London and Matrix Chambers, Co-Chair of the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide
Samuel Cogolati, MP for Belgium and member of Ecolo, advocating for the recognition of ecocide in the Belgian Parliament
Samantha Smith, Director of the Just Transition Centre of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Mehtap Akgüç, Senior Researcher ETUI