should the bosses of polluting companies and the leaders of environmentally-unfriendly states join those responsible for mass murder in the dock. They could if a fifth crime against peace - ecocide - joined that list of human evils? The United Nations is now considering the proposal and the first test of how a prosecution for ecocide would work takes place on Friday, with fossil fuel bosses in the dock at the UK supreme court in London. It is a mock trial of course, but with real top-flight lawyers and judges and a jury made up of members of the public. The corporate CEOs will be played by actors briefed by their legal teams.
The crime of ecocide is the brainchild of British lawyer Polly Higgins, who in her UN submission defined it as:
Ecocide: The extensive damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.Crimes being considered for prosecution in Friday's trial include the extraction of oil from Canada's tar sands, a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, fracking for shale gas in Nigeria and bauxite mining of Niyamgiri mountain, India. The real world parallels are not accidental.
I doubt the world is ready for this sort of thing just yet but public attitudes are bound to change as the forecast impacts of climate change set in and the full misery and costs of fossil fuel depredations set in. Many millions are expected to die from climate change, either directly or from wars sparked by it. Surely those who so relentlessly drove it should be accountable for the suffering and loss they occasioned.