European lawmakers gave a boost this week to efforts to make ecocide - large-scale environmental destruction - a crime that could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) alongside offences such as war crimes and genocide.
Campaigners hailed the decision by the European Parliament to approve revisions to an EU draft law against environmental crimes, including a provision that would enshrine ecocide in EU law.
Still, green activists acknowledge that a long path lays ahead for it to be recognised as an international crime.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is ecocide?
Ecocide is broadly defined as any unlawful act that causes widespread, long-term and severe destruction of the environment.
The term was first used to describe the environmental devastation in Vietnam caused by the US military’s use of “Agent Orange”, a toxic herbicide that continues to pollute rivers and lands.
When committed repeatedly over decades, ecocide can be considered a cause of “the climate and ecological emergency facing humanity”, according to Stop Ecocide International, a nonprofit leading calls for it to be recognised as an international crime that could be tried by The Hague-based ICC.
If the court recognised ecocide as an international crime, heads of big companies or government officials might be among those put on trial, potentially facing long jail terms.
Stop Ecocide International says cases could involve the deforestation of the Amazon, large oil spills and other environmental disasters related to mining, deep-sea trawling or nuclear accidents.