I would like to raise a glass to Polly Higgins

6 April 2019

Polly Higgins is a fifty-year-old barrister who has been diagnosed with aggressive cancer and has just weeks to live. Although that is tragic, that is not why I want to pay tribute to her, it is because she has spent the last ten years drafting model laws to show what the crime of ecocide would look like and how they could be used effectively in an international court to hold governments and corporates to account for the deliberate destruction of the natural world and our life-sustaining systems.


Until 1996, drafts of the Rome statute which lists international crimes against humanity such as genocide, included the crime of ecocide but at the behest of the UK, France and the Netherlands it was dropped. At that point Polly Higgins gave up her job, sold her house and began the long campaign to have the law reinstated along with all of the necessary framework and modelling to bring about a successful prosecution.
We have now had 24 years of climate negotiations involving all world leaders and still at various summits perpetrators share platforms with states and continue to over-exploit and vandalise the natural world without being held to account.


The Climate Accountability Institute has identified the 91 companies responsible for 78% of emissions and all of greenhouse gas emissions and has highlighted the fact that, 30 years ago, scientists working within the fossil fuel industry knew that the industry was causing climate breakdown. Over the years there has been a deliberate attempt on the part of these industries to deceive the public. Currently, BP and Shell are spending 200 million dollars a year on lobbying to delay efforts aimed at preventing climate breakdown. According to Greenpeace UK, BP has successfully pressed the Trump government to overturn laws passed by Obama to reduce methane emissions.


Climate crime will undoubtedly bring a whole new set of challenges but surely the establishment of an international law of ecocide is the way to go. Only the law can provide the safeguards needed to prevent a few powerful people from wreaking havoc on the rest of us. It is, very definitely, a David and Goliath struggle. An independent preliminary examination has begun of top Shell bosses and a Dutch minister for alleged climate ecocide:the missing international crime of our time.


The portal for ecocide crime is www.eradicatingecocide.com
Follow the progress of Polly’s work on www.earth-law.org/climatecrime


So, raise a glass, please.
To Polly Higgins, with thanks.