France considers introducing new 'ecocide' offence in pollution crackdown

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By Alessio Dellanna  & AFP
A climate change protest in Paris on September 21, 2019
A climate change protest in Paris on September 21, 2019   -  Copyright  LUCAS BARIOULET / AFP

The French government is planning to crack down on behaviours against the environment by creating an "ecocide" offence.

The plan was originally brought forward by the Citizens’ Convention for Climate, an assembly consisting of 150 randomly selected citizens established in 2019 by President Emmanuel Macron with the aim to reduce France’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The new proposal underlines sanctions from a minimum of three to 10 years in prison, as well as fines starting from €375,000 to €4.5 million.

"In the past you polluted, you won, tomorrow you will pollute, you will pay up to ten times the profit you make if you throw your waste into the river", warned the Minister of Justice Dupont-Moretti in an interview to Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper published on Sunday.

The government is also thinking about a second type of offence to sanction "the endangerment of the environment by deliberate violations of an obligation", even if no actual damage has occurred, said the Justice Minister. That would be sanctioned with a €100,000 fine as well with one year in prison.

Some activists, however, argue that the government’s proposals don’t go far enough.

"The proposal which will be presented to the deputies is infinitely less ambitious than that carried by the Citizens' Convention and does not correspond to the international definitions of ecocide", lamented environmental activist Cyril Dion on Twitter.