Ecocide is serious harm. The harm can occur in many ways within the context of dangerous industrial or climate activity. The consequences of ecocide can be widespread, long-term or severe. Currently it is not an international crime.
Ecocide law, as proposed here, protects both people and planet within two contexts; corporate and climate activity. You can read the full proposed Model Law here.
Ecocide law has a history spanning nearly 50 years. You can read a summary of the history here.
Nevermore has there been a time when the missing law of ecocide is required. Ecocide law is a legal route that will significantly abate sea-level rises, protect millions of lives and prevent serious harm to our planetary boundaries by imposing State and corporate responsibility for dangerous industrial and climate activity. Ecocide crime protects lives, prevents planetary boundary tipping-points and prohibits dangerous industrial activity. Dangerous industrial activities and climate disasters are the ultimate responsibility of the very people who have the power to prevent the serious harm, at a State and corporate level.
Criminalising ecocide at an international level requires one or more State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to propose the inclusion of ecocide to the existing “most serious crimes of concern”. You can read the process that will be required to implement ecocide as an international crime of the Rome Statute here.
Existing laws, including international declarations, treaties and protocols, do not as yet impose a universal legal requirement to uphold State and corporate responsibility for serious harm. In response to this, a draft law of Ecocide was submitted by Polly Higgins in April 2010 into the United Nations Law Commission. You can read the proposed Model Law here.
Missing Law – Ecological Law
There is missing law: ecocide crime
Ecocide is “loss or damage to, or destruction of ecosystem(s) of a given territory(ies), such that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants has been or will be severely diminished.” See the draft Model Law here. Ecocide crime is State and corporate crime. There is a history, over 20 years ago ecocide crime was at the 11th hour excluded from the Rome Statute as an international crime and from the UN State Responsibility crimes. Today it offers a route to stop the exacerbation of climate change and ecosystem destruction. Ecocide is an international crime not yet in place. Here is a law that will halt stop the destruction of ecosystems and disrupt the cycle of climate crisis, the challenge of our times.
The hidden story – Carbon Majors
Our inability to halt dangerous industrial activity is the hidden story behind climate change. Carbon Major industries exacerbate/drive climate change – to such a degree that for Small Island Developing States (for example Pacific and Caribbean islands), the lives and livelihoods of millions of people are under threat.
What has now been established is the direct link between rising temperatures, carbon emissions and major carbon emitters.
100 companies are source of over 70% emissions
The major perpetrators: 100 active fossil fuel producers including ExxonMobil, Shell, BHP Billiton and Gazprom are linked to 71% of industrial greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. (See: Summary of Report, CPD Carbon Majors Report 2017, and the Carbon Majors website)
Faced with escalating climate emergencies, it is essential to find a way to hold to account State and businesses so that communities can be protected. There is no route-map to disrupt the escalating cycle of carbon – climate chaos lock-in that continues at an ever increasing rate. By prohibiting ecocide and creating a law that makes it mandatory for States and corporations to end ecological ecocide and significantly abate climate ecocide, temperature rise can be minimised and major carbon emitters prohibited.
By prohibiting carbon major corporations and carbon major States protection can be sought, preventing and pre-empting the most serious crime of our time.
Satellite mapping tools predict that sea-level rises from 4 °C increase (7.2 °F) in temperature — a business-as-usual scenario — could lock in enough sea level rise to submerge land currently home to over 470 million people. To significantly abate sea-level rises (and climate ecocide) carbon emission cuts are required. (For estimates, mapping and report, see scientific research organization Climate Central about impact on small island states)
The Crime of Ecocide
Ecocide adversely impacts on many levels, the can be harm both ecological and cultural. Our emotions and our senses are affected; we feel and see the adverse impact of ecocide. Communities most harmed by ecocide suffer what is known as solastalgia. At a collective level communities feel a profound sense of isolation and intense desolation. This is compounded by the community’s lack of power in the face of State and corporate might, the pain of being unable to console in times of great distress and the loss of homeland. Without the sense of deep care for people and planet, our laws are singularly absent of proper governance. Ecocide law gives enforcement to a ‘legal duty of care’ not only for only communities but also future generations and the wider life of our Earth.
Polly Higgins on her mission to make ecocide the fifth international crime against peace: from De Balie
Ecocide law is Earth law; and those with significant power – corporations and States – will have a duty to protect. Protection of people and planet can be done. How we choose to leave our Earth is our legacy.
How a new Law can disrupt Climate Change
The Governance Pyramid
Currently ecosystem destruction and climate change is governed by first and second tier governance: voluntary ‘soft law’ provisions and trade and commerce provisions.
Some international examples are the Paris Agreement, Millenium Development Goals’s, Sustainable Development Goal’s and UN Global Compact. All are based on good faith. Yet, when climate change and ecosystem destruction occurs, there is no recourse at the first tier.
The second tier of governance provides limited remedy for ecosystem destruction primarily by fines; remedy for climate change is even weaker, with no remedy in place. The burden is on the individual to sue; whilst there may be a pay-out, business can and do remain operating. Where there is a court declaration of State obligations, enforcement is limited. E.g. Urgenda Foundation v The State of the Netherlands; citizens sued the State for taking insufficient action to keep Dutch citizens safe from dangerous climate change. Climate litigation cases have tripled since 2014. As the UNEP climate-change-litigation report highlights, civil litigation provides limited remedy.
An added layer of weak governance is the movement of unaccounted-for Dark money. Financing think-tanks, corporate lobbyists with State legislators to develop “model bills”; funding climate disinformation and corporate driven agendas.
The top tier, is the tier of Justice; here the State is obligated under criminal law to prosecute alleged offenders. Individuals are held to account in a criminal court of law at a State level and for 124 States, at the International Criminal Court. This is where there is missing law – without a crime of ecocide, society remains unprotected, climate change and ecosystem destruction remain driven by dark money, State sanctioned by non-action. Thus, there is a justice deficit.
From harm to harmony
A vicious cycle is in place; loss, damage or destruction spirals upwards to climate crisis, climate refugees and displacement of hundreds of millions. Soft law and trade and commerce provisions do not and cannot stop climate change.
The cycle of loss destruction and harm with no mechanism to halt the Crime of Ecocide.
By making ecocide crime this cycle can be disrupted
A new cycle – a virtuous cycle – can be established: Earth protection becomes the overriding priority. Carbon Majors are held to account and prohibited; clean energy is a legal requirement and consequently climate change is significantly abated
Justice is required, for both people and planet. Resetting the scales of justice restores and protects humanity, our Earth and its ecosystems from climate change. We have a moral – and ultimately a legal – obligation to ensure the safety, health and well-being of others, human and non-human.
This is justice – for nature, humanity and future generations.