(to watch Polly give the De Balie Freedom Lecture 2017 above, start at 21.16 – ends at 51.10)
Polly Higgins is an international lawyer, UK based barrister and award-winning author. Founder of the Earth Law Alliance, she has garnered a number of awards for her work advocating for a law of Ecocide. She received an Honoris Causa Doctorate from Business School Lausanne 2013; in the same year she became the Honorary Arne Naess Professor at Oslo University. Her first book, Eradicating Ecocide, won the Peoples Book Prize in 2011 (updated 2nd edition, September 2015). In November 2015 VPRO (Dutch BBC) featured a documentary about her work, called Advocate for the Earth. She is ranked as No.35 in Salt magazine’s 2016 Top 100 Inspiring Women of the world list, was the 2016 recipient of Polarbröd‘s Utstickarpriset for Future Leadership, and the 2017 prizewinner of the Slovakian Ekotopfilm Award.
A number of lawyers now operate pro-bono as part of the Ecocide law response team who advise and assist States that lack the financial backing of western nations. Polly and her team advise and provide briefing sessions to climate vulnerable states on climate crime. Based in the UK, the Hague and New York, the Ecocide law response team operates behind the scenes, as independent advisors. They are not paid by States, nor by organisations, with a set agenda. Each lawyer offers their time freely to advise without vested interest.
Advocating for Ecocide Law
Ecocide law seeks to re-balance the greatest injustice of our time; the lack of a legal duty of care. As such, existing duties prioritise profit. Profit that arises out of ecocide has long-term, significant adverse consequences; at the moment it is not a crime to cause extensive damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems. As a result, dangerous industrial activity continues unabated and the knock-on impact of loss and damage remains unaddressed.
In April 2010 a fully drafted proposal was submitted into the United Nations. Since then, Polly Higgins has advised many governments, NGO’s, the UN and other related organisations on Ecocide law. She has spoken throughout the world at all levels; political, economic and ecological. The author of three books; her first, Eradicating Ecocide, garnered the award The Peoples Book of the Year (2011). She is a UK based Barrister (her advisory work now takes precedence and she no longer practices in court), International lawyer and world renowned Ecocide law expert.
Polly’s award-winning book Eradicating Ecocide: laws and governance to prevent the destruction of our planet (1st Ed 2010, 2nd Ed 2015) – sets out her full proposal that was submitted to the United Nations. Her second book, Earth is our Business (pub. 2012), takes a deeper look at how Ecocide law shall play out for business and includes the draft Ecocide Act and indictments that were used in the mock Ecocide trial held in the UK Supreme Court in 2011. Polly was named one of the World’s Top 10 Visionary Thinkers by the Ecologist and celebrated as The Planet’s Lawyer by the 2010 Change Awards. Amongst many of her keynote speeches, she delivered the 2012 50th anniversary Rachel Carson Memorial Lecture. You can read a recent article about Ecocide here: The duty to care for our common home.
To read more about Polly, please visit her website: www.pollyhiggins.com.
Polly Higgins (born 1968) is a UK based barrister, author and lead expert on Ecocide law. She lives in the UK.
Studying in Scotland, she received a First Class MA Hons degree from Aberdeen University and a concurrent First Class Diploma from Utrecht University; thereafter a Post-graduate degree from Glasgow University. Polly Higgins moved to London to study law at City University prior to entering the Inns of Court School of Law (97-98). She was called to the English Bar in 1998. She trained as a pupil at the Chambers of Baroness Scotland of Astral QC and was a tenant at Bridewell Chambers.
In 2006, together with Dr Gerhardt Knies and Dr Gerry Wolff, she became a Founding Member of DESERTEC (Solar) and in 2008 sat as a Supervisory Board Member of the DESERTEC Foundation for two years.
In 2010 upon submitting a fully worked proposal to the United Nations for an amendment to the Rome Statute to include Ecocide as an international Crime against Peace, Polly Higgins wrote her award-winning first book, Eradicating Ecocide: laws and governance to prevent the destruction of our planet (Peoples Book Prize 2011). The following year a mock Ecocide Trial was held in the UK Supreme Court, live-streamed by Sky News prosecuted and defended by top barristers and QC’s including leading Human Rights barrister Michael Mansfield QC. Research undertaken by University of London’s School of Advanced Studies Human Rights Consortium led to previously unseen UN documents entering into the public domain and the publication of a Research Paper into history of law of Ecocide at the UN.
Polly Higgins subsequently founded The Earth Community Trust and in 2012 she wrote her second book, Earth is our Business: changing the rules of the game.
Holder of the Arne Naess Chair in Global Justice and the Environment at University of Oslo (2013/14), Polly Higgins was awarded an Honoris Causa Doctorate from Business School Lausanne for her services advancing Earth Law. The same year she co-founded The Earth Law Alliance.
In 2015 Advocate for the Earth (VPRO documentary), which profiled lawyers advocating for Ecocide law, led to questions being asked in the Dutch Parliament (The Netherlands had been one of the few countries to object to Ecocide as a Crime under the Rome Statute during the initial drafting). A team of QCs and barristers from the UK and the Hague led by Polly Higgins now brief climate vulnerable Small Island Developing States on climate crime pro-bono.
Speaking includes guest lectures at numerous universities including New York University, University of California Berkeley, University of London, Uppsala University and University of British Columbia. Notable public talks include the EARTHtalks at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna; Keynote Speaker at the 9th Annual International Student Conference in Strasbourg; and Lead Speaker at the Tobias Leadership Conference, Colorado. Polly delivered the Rachel Carson 50th Anniversary Memorial Lecture both in London and in the Netherlands; Lead Speaker at the International Leadership Association’s Annual Global Conference; she has presented at the World Peace Conference and at the RSA (London) as well as giving a number of TED talks. Polly speaks on a diverse range of platforms, from business to peace, from law to ecology.
Currently Polly Higgins undertakes Ecocide law briefings for climate vulnerable State representatives.
P. Higgins, Eradicating Ecocide: laws and governance to prevent the destruction of our Earth, Shepheard-Walwyn, London (2010, 2015).
P. Higgins, Earth is our Business: changing the rules of the game, Shepheard-Walwyn, London (2012).
JOURNAL ARTICLES/RESEARCH PAPERS
D. Short, L. Kubicki, A. Gauger, M. Pouye, P. Higgins, Ecocide is the Missing 5th Crime Against Peace, Human Rights Consortium, (2012, 2013).
P. Higgins, D. Short, and N. South, Protecting the Planet: A Proposal for a Law of Ecocide, Crime, Law and Social Change 59, no. 3 (2013) 251–66.
GOVERNMENT BRIEFING DOCUMENT
P. Higgins, Closing the Door to Dangerous Industrial Activity, Concept Paper, Earth Community Trust (2012).
SOME RECENT DISCOURSE
B. Lay, L. Neyret, D. Short, A.Oposa, Timely and Necessary: Ecocide Law as Urgent and Emerging, The Journal of Jurisprudence, Vol 28 (2015) J.Juris 431 – 452.
Revue Internationale Interdisciplinaire, L’Ordre public écologique: Du concept à la juridicité, Editions L’Harmattan (2014).
S Jodoin & M-C Segger (Eds), Sustainable Development, International Criminal Justice, and Treaty Implementation, Cambridge University Press, (2013)
F Wijdekop, The duty to care for our common home, New Internationalist (2016)
United Nations Environment Programme, research report, climate-change-litigation (2017)
To read more about Polly, please visit her website: www.pollyhiggins.com