Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Earth’s advocate: Defending our environment

The Independent
June 13, 2012

In 1992 the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro designed international legal protocol for the protection of the environment. Twenty years later, British barrister Polly Higgins believes those laws have failed.

“Environmental law as it stands is clearly not fit for purpose,” she says.

But her sweet Scottish brogue has only tones of optimism. Her perpetual smile reveals faith in her proposed solution – an international crime of ‘ecocide.’

Seven years ago, working as a corporate lawyer in London, she found herself fighting for things she didn’t believe in. She was representing clients who looked at the environment as collateral damage in pursuit of profit.

So Higgins became an international environmental lawyer. She has taken on one client, pro bono, and became advocate for the earth.

“I recognised that we don’t have legal duty of care for the earth. It doesn’t exist. I realised that the earth was in need of a good lawyer,” she says.

This month she will travel to the Rio+20 summit, as an official observer, to petition for the legal rights of the planet to be acknowledged under her proposed law of ecocide.

She has tabled international legislation at the UN that would make the “extensive damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems” the fifth crime against peace, alongside genocide, under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.  Her law of ecocide would empower individuals and communities to act as legal guardians of the planet in the courtroom.  Read the whole story here.

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