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April 19, 2021

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France in new effort to protect ecosystem

The French National Assembly on Saturday approved the creation of an “ecocide” offense as part of a battery of measures aimed at protecting the environment and tackling climate change.

The ecocide measure was passed by 44 votes to 10 in the lower house of parliament and will, if it becomes law, 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 (US$5.4 million).

Pompili stressed that the draft bill is aimed at national events, such as the pollution of a French river. “When we think of the attacks on the Amazon rainforest, that is not something we can tackle within our own laws.”

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

Some right-wing lawmakers complained about moves toward “punitive ecology.”

Julien Aubert of the Republicans voiced the “serious concerns” of companies facing “legal insecurity” created by such environmental justice measures.

Lawmakers on the left judged the offense 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 offense of “attacking the environment.”


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