<span class="larger"On the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, British barrister Polly Higgins said it’s time for a new criminal law of Ecocide to protect the rights of the Earth.
As COP24 negotiators squabbled and failed to accept the recent IPCC report that they themselves commissioned, Polly proposed a more muscular approach to the global environmental crisis.
An international crime
‘COP negotiations cannot address climate breakdown until ecocide is recognised as an international crime’, Polly told her audience at the Hague Talks in the Netherlands, held to mark the Anniversary of the Human Rights Declaration.
Speaking at the Hague Peace Palace, Polly said, ‘Today we celebrate not just the rights but also the responsibilities of governments to protect the most important right of all, the right to life. Looking forward, not just to the next 70 years, but the next 700, even 7000 years, we must ask: how do we ensure the responsibility to protect the Earth’s right to life and the right to life of all who live on it, human and non-human?’
‘Climate negotiations cannot do this, but criminal law can’, Polly continued. ‘By outlawing ecocide, we steer in a new direction, where the governing principle is ‘first do no harm’. Without this one law, we cannot hope to protect our one Earth or navigate our way through the unprecedented environmental crisis we face.’
Walking the talk
Polly isn’t afraid to walk her talk. Her non-profit organisation Ecological Defence Integrity has launched an independent Preliminary Examination into climate ecocide in the Hague at a special event accompanying the annual Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court, to examine whether a full investigation would be justified if ecocide crime were to be put in place. Polly even named key suspects – Dutch climate minister Eric Wiebes and Shell CEOs Ben van Beurden and Marjan van Loon.
‘I look forward to publicly reporting our findings’, Polly said. ‘If the evidence shows that continuous industrial activity known to adversely affect climate breakdown has been permitted, then both the Dutch government minister and Shell’s senior officers could be held responsible for pervasive impacts on the world’s population at large, including the systemic and widespread collapse of ecosystems.’