Campaigners battling to protect one of the world’s most endangered species have backed plans to make ecocide an offence in Scotland – pointing to the proposals potentially acting as a deterrent to developers wrecking the climate.

Mighty Earth has highlighted Labour MSP Monica Lennon’s bid to make ecocide a specific offence, amid suggestions the legislation could put pressure on the Edinburgh-based developers of the controversial Batan Toru dam in Indonesia.

Concerns have been raised over Red Rock Power’s development, which is to be built in the heart of the extremely rare Tapanuli orangutans’ natural habitat.

The dam is being constructed by the Chinese State Development and Investment Corporation (SDIC), of which Red Rock Power, headquartered in Edinburgh, is a subsidiary firm.

There are only around 800 Tapanuli orangutans left in existence and the species has been described by the WWF as the most endangered of all great apes.

Read more: Why is Scotland silent on the scandal of Batang Toru?

Red Rock Power is also developing the Inch Cape Offshore Wind farm off the coast of Angus and met with SNP ministers in 2022 and then first minister Nicola Sturgeon in 2016 about its renewable projects.

But campaigners are pointing to Ms Lennon’s ecocide members’ bill as potentially putting pressure on Red Rock Power and other corporations accused of threatening the environment from thinking about their actions.

What are the ecocide plans for Scotland?

Under the plans, big polluters could see 10% of their turnover seized while climate criminals could face up to 20 years in prison if they commit ecocide.

Ecocide is defined as the mass damage and destruction of the natural living world and essentially means killing the environment.

Scotland would not be the first country to bring forward plans to make ecocide a criminal offence, but Ms Lennon’s proposals would make it the first part of the UK to do so.

Read more: Ecocide law: Polluters could see turnover seized and 20 years in jail

A new standalone crime of ecocide would target the most harmful acts against the environment and for the first time allow the courts to pursue individual decision makers at the highest level of government and business.

The Scottish Government has not yet formally backed the proposals, but First Minister Humza Yousaf met with ecocide campaigners at COP28 last year.

Nick Cullen, campaigner at Mighty Earth, said: “Scotland spearheaded the Edinburgh Declaration at the biodiversity COP in Montreal, committing to a global deal to protect all nature. “Moving to criminalise ecocide will send another clear signal that Scotland takes its environmental responsibility seriously.

“The Ecocide Bill championed by Monica Lennon is a positive step towards ensuring that companies like Red Rock Power, headquartered in Edinburgh, but owned by China cannot profit from Scotland’s energy transition if the parent company is destroying nature overseas with toxic and unnecessary projects like the Batang Toru dam.

“No species needs protection, legal or otherwise, more than the Tapanuli orangutan, which has fewer than 800 individuals remaining in the wild in just 5% of the area it used to inhabit.

“We cannot allow this amazing animal to just disappear from the face of the earth.”

Read more: SNP Government could back ecocide plans to 'keep pace' with EU rules

A consultation on Ms Lennon's proposed legislation will close tomorrow.

She said: “I am delighted that many people and organisations are backing my bid for ecocide law because we must act urgently and decisively to protect nature.

“Mighty Earth is doing brave and vital work, holding powerful corporations and governments to account. I am thrilled that Mighty Earth has backed my proposal to criminalise mass environmental damage in Scotland through a new crime of ecocide."

Ms Lennon added: “With the EU taking bold legal action against ecocide, the Scottish Government is actively monitoring the emergence of ecocide law and how it can be applied in Scotland.

"I’m confident we can be a global leader, building on our Edinburgh Declaration commitments."

“By protecting Scotland’s nature, we can also send a message to powerful companies like Red Rock Power and SDIC in defence of workers’ rights, the environment and the survival of the world’s most endangered great ape.” 

A spokesperson for Red Rock Power said: “It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment on a project outside of Red Rock Power's remit or jurisdiction.”