Should BP CEO Tony Hayward face jail time for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? Or should Shell’s CEO spend a few years in jail for the estimated 550 million gallons that spilled in Nigeria’s Niger Delta over the past 50 years? There is an extensive list of CEOs and corporations that could be prosecuted but here are few that happened just this year.
Proponents of criminalizing Ecocide resoundingly say, “yes.”
Ecocide is basically the mass destruction of the environment and everything that lives in it. Polly Higgins, International Environmental lawyer and author of Eradicating Ecocide, currently spearheads the push to make ecocide an international crime against peace. If successful, it would join the 4 other crimes against peace, defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which are genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.
For ecocide to become an international crime, 81 of the 121 countries who signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court need to support it. Once elevated to an international crime, governments will establish stricter preventative laws that hold corporations responsible for their policies. If violations occur, governments can do more than fine them and shake its finger. The responsible parties can be prosecuted and jailed. Higgins’ goal is that “By creating a law of ecocide, business, banks and nations will be under a legal duty of care to ensure that profit, money and policy does not support mass damage and destruction of the earth by humanity.”
The discussions regarding criminalizing Ecocide are not new; Ecocide initially appeared in international discussions in the 1970’s. The idea resurfaced in 2012, after Higgins submitted it in a proposal to the United Nations, and has since gained traction due to the environments declining health.
The recent release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report paints a bleak picture for the environment and therefore our future. It predicts global warming will cause the “breakdown of global food systems, shrinking water resources, and an increase in violent conflict.”
According to the IPCC we are at a tipping point. Environmental policies need to be reavaluated and improved. The constant denial of climate change by republicans needs to halt. The continual disregard for the environment by governments and corporations must stop. Our life and livelihoods literally depend on it.
Maybe making ecocide an international crime will create the well needed change.
Chariese is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.