By: Habeeb Adewale Tajudeen
Change is natural and inevitable, but if a change in climate conditions means humans can no longer live in a particular area or makes humans exposed to more danger while living on the planet, that means something needs to be done to save humanity.
The use of destructive weapons and dangerous extractive industries is leading to massive environmental destruction as well as a violation of human rights to a healthy environment. Global warming is the biggest health threat facing humanity as it affects the social and environmental determinants of health.
It is estimated by the World Health Organization that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, and heat stress, all as a result of climate change.
The change in climate conditions is continually affecting the human rights of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, and global policy makers are doing very little to target this generation’s greatest concern.
As a result, human rights law is becoming a more popular method of holding companies and governments accountable for their climate failure.Advocates of environmental rights as international law have supported and advanced the slow evolving process by which humanitarian law and international environmental law are coalescing in defense of humankind’s right to a healthy environment. When the Charter of the United Nation and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were drafted, environmental protection was not in the collective conscience of the international community.
However, the fear of environmental degradation has propelled the examination of this issue to the forefront of contemporary international discussion. This is a justification for the actions of many environmental activists and legal scholars, seeking to make “ecocide” an international crime within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Ecocide is defined in a simple term as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts”. If adopted, the proposed definition would be a historic shift, paving the way for nature and other species to count legally as protected entities in their own right.
The global use of the term “ecocide” would finally allow world leaders and corporations to be prosecuted for the destruction of the world’s ecosystems as well as deter future environmental negligence. If this law could be endorsed by the ICC, it would be a landmark moment in the fight for environmental accountability.
Implementing ecocide as an international crime, therefore, would have to challenge longstanding, particularly western, attitudes of human separateness from, and superiority to, nature and nonhuman species, which continue to be seen as objects and resources. The concept of ecocide instead means considering nature and nonhuman species as entities with inherent value and rights that should be respected.
International law is the available tool in the fight against environmental injustice. The public needs to stand up and make their support for addressing the violation of human rights to a healthy environment in the ecocide definition explicitly known, and must emphasize the importance of developing a crime of ecocide that helps to also strengthen recognition of existing international crimes pertaining to local-level environmental injustice.