Jojo Mehta – Making ecocide a crime in less than 5 years and for less than 6 million dollars

A conversation with Jojo Mehta, executive director of Stop Ecocide International, about making ecocide a crime, something you can get arrested for and end up in prison. How do we get it from a discussion in lawyer circles and academic circles into international criminal law? And why is it going much faster over the last 5 years than anyone has expected?

Law: an area we rarely touch but has the potential to shift our food and agriculture system, and many other systems, completely. Making ecocide a crime. Ecocide is broadly understood to mean mass damage and destruction of ecosystems – severe harm to nature which is widespread or long-term. Turning ecocide into a crime, most likely it would also over time change our consciousness and get ecocide into the realm of things you simply don’t do. What is even more fascinating is that large companies actually want this, so it creates a level playing field.


Unlike suing and fining corporations, making ecocide a crime creates an arrestable offence. It makes those individuals who are responsible for acts or decisions that lead to severe environmental harm liable to criminal prosecution.


Criminalising ecocide as a key step in addressing environmental damage.

”It seemed like a very simple way to address mass harm to nature: simply make it a crime.”

Jojo Mehta

”Criminal law has a particular role to play because we use criminal law to draw moral lines. So effectively, that recoil from damaging another person is a moral recoil. And it’s a profound taboo. And criminal law has the potential to create that.” Jojo Mehta

”Once the law was in place, you then see a major shift in the general population.” Jojo Mehta

”In the place that we’re at with major environmental destruction right now, we are reaching a point where consciousness is at a high levelI mean, sort of a legislative level. […] That awareness at the political level is reaching a point where this is a very serious discussion; it’s now being taken seriously. But at the same time, we’re still in a position, economically speaking, where there are huge amounts of money going towards practices that are still very disruptive. So, it’s like that that was sort of right at that nexus point, if you like, where that evolution is possible.” Jojo Mehta


Jojo notes increased interest from corporate legal departments and the investment world in Ecocide law.

”The word ecocide has a huge power and a lot of momentum to it. And a lot of the reason behind the growth of this conversation is precisely because it’s a powerful word. In practice, of course, what we actually want is the prohibition of severe widespread and long-term destruction. And calling that Ecocide is a shorthand that works really well. But in terms of the actual laws themselves, it may not specifically matter, because once the understanding of that word is there culturally and, ideally, legally as well, it has that kind of taboo effect that we’re looking for.”

Jojo Mehta

”In terms of conversations, generally with the business and corporate worlds and also with the investment world, interestingly, that has been picking up quite a lot over the last year, we can see a thread emerging.” Jojo Mehta

”I think we’ve already got to the stage, politically, where no government is going to want to be seen directly objecting the Ecocide Law because they’re just going to look terrible. And when it comes to the sort of big companies that could potentially be affected by this, they’re not saying anything, they are keeping very quiet. We don’t know, they’re maybe behind closed doors, and we wouldn’t see. But effectively, if they’ve spent a certain number of decades greenwashing, shall we say, the last thing they’re going to do is come out in public against this, because that will ruin all of that investment.” Jojo Mehta


According to Jojo, Ecocide criminalization gaining momentum in Europe.

”It’s quite new still, but there are a number of European countries that are already discussing ecocide at the national level. And I mean, the Netherlands is one, and Belgium has actually already adopted ecocide at the federal level; it still needs to address it at the regional level […] Proposals were also made in Italy and Spain last year or so, in the UK. […] But effectively, what we’re seeing is that the conversation is very alive; it’s now being taken very seriously because, effectively, with this development of the EU, that has also pushed things at the International Criminal Court level […] Before, it felt a little bit more speculative. Now, it feels okay, this is obviously going to happen. It’s just a question of when and how. So, that has sort of shifted on to a whole other level. So yeah, I mean, it’s a really, really important milestone because it really shows that this has been taken seriously. And actually, I suppose what you could say is that a legislative direction of travel has now been established.” Jojo Mehta


Jojo suggests waving a magic wand to implement Ecocide law worldwide, citing its potential for rapid change and minimal cost.

”I’d wave the wand for it to happen everywhere within a limited time so that people could see it coming. Because, actually, that’s what really changes things. So, if you suddenly put a law in place tomorrow, all the courts would collapse, everybody would freak out, and it’d be complete chaos. But because people can know, this is already starting to happen because people can see it coming. There’s a window of change, there’s a window of compliance, and there’s a window of shifting thinking. So, I could almost say that if I could wave my wand now and in, say, three years’ time, this law would be in place everywhere, and you’d see unbelievable change happen. So, there are many kinds of knock-on effects and reframing things. The irony of all this is that it’s really relatively cheap. I mean, changing a law doesn’t cost very much money, but actually, it would show the effect is enormous. And it would change where all the investments go; it would change where all of the eye-level decision- making decisions go. So yeah, that would be incredible.” Jojo Mehta


Koen and Jojo also talked about

  • Polly Higgins, a tireless advocate whose vision of legal reform continues to inspire action
  • The extraordinary momentum gained by movements such as Extinction Rebellion and youth-led climate strikes
  • Investing in environmental law and advocacy to address soil degradation




Feedback, comments, suggestions? Reach me via Twitter @KoenvanSeijen, in the comments below or through Get in Touch on this website.

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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

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