Scientists, lawyers unite behind ecocide law

Emissions are rising year on year, in spite of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The raft of commitments made by governments the world over are too often ignored and the window for keeping the consequences of the climate crisis even partially manageable is rapidly closing.

These consequences are already palpable: severe storms, floods, droughts and forest fires are reported in the newspapers almost every day. We have transgressed six out of nine of the recognised Planetary Boundaries and breached seven out of eight of the safe and just Earth Boundaries. 

As hopeful as we were in 2015, we are woefully behind targets set for emission reductions by 2030. Species are disappearing from the face of the Earth at alarming rates. In 2022, a landmark international agreement on biodiversity was made in Montrealto address dangerous loss of biodiversity and restore natural systems.

Ecocide law

The goals are ambitious and necessary, but there is a question mark over whether they will be met. Our track record is not encouraging: none of the previous targets for biodiversity protection were fully met. Clearly, we need to do more than simply agree on targets, but many campaigners appear at a loss to identify a path forward.

There are already numerous international conventions and treaties that deal with environmental issues. Events like the yearly COP gatherings were once treated as exciting opportunities but have proved ineffectual in practice. The systematic violence we are inflicting on our planet and ourselves cannot continue.

One tool that does hold real hope and promise is ecocide law – the establishment of a new internationally recognised crime aimed at preventing and punishing the most serious harms against nature.

Ecocide law gives us the opportunity to bridge the gap between what existing legal instruments can achieve and what the science is telling us must be done. There is now a widespread call for governments to make ecocide an international crime within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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