Overview by Emma Bakkum, Research Associate PILPG-NL
Polly Higgins, Barrister and International Ecocide Lawyer
Arnold Kiel Loughman , Attorney General, Vanuatu
Kirsten Meerchaert, Hague Head of Office, Coalition for the ICC
Vanuatu appealed to ICC to consider including climate and environmental crimes into the Rome Statute, underscoring the relevance of these crimes to Pacific Island states.
The panelist of this side event emphasized the increasing problems and challenges faced by, especially Pacific Island, states as a result of climate change and environmental destruction. They appealed for a collective approach and in particular they appealed to the ICC to increase its involvement, proposing Ecocide to be included in the Rome Statute as an ICC crime to hold individuals accountable for climate and environmental crimes. Polly Higgins commented on the proposed draft law that includes provisions for prosecuting environmental destruction and an obligation to provide assistance to those affected by climate change and natural disasters, laying down a duty of care. The panelists considered it inevitable that Ecocide will become a part of the ICC and its fight against impunity.
The audience brought up several issues, including difficulties with accommodating collective responsibility into the international criminal law framework, measuring the gravity of climate change, and the possibility of creating a special court for climate and environmental crimes. Lastly, support for the issue was discussed. The panelists were of the opinion that including Ecocide in the Rome Statute could move several non-member states to become signatories and thus strengthen the universality of the Rome Statute. Furthermore, it could move the focus away from the African continent.