Jonny Rogers explores how the legal system might be changed to hold people accountable for perpetuating climate change and ecological damage.
Photo by Annie Spratt
The International Criminal Court (ICC) currently wields the power to prosecute four crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. However, some politicians, activists and world leaders – including Greta Thunberg and the Pope – are calling for the recognition of ‘ecocide’ as a crime worthy of comparable prosecution.
Although recent years have seen increasing public pressure for governments around the world to prioritise ecological issues, this often manifests in what Sophie Yeo has described as “fluffy and arguably toothless rulemaking”. The Paris Agreement, for example, which aims to limit the global temperature rise over the next few decades, depends on nations setting their own emission reduction targets, with little legal consequence to their failure.
However, by adding ecocide to the Rome Statute of the ICC, the perpetrators of serious environmental destruction could face arrest, prosecution and imprisonment – but will this deterrent change the discourse on the ecological crisis?