Return to Australian Earth Laws Centre


What is Ecocide?

Ecocide is defined as “loss or damage to, or destruction of ecosystem(s) of a given territory(ies), such that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants has been or will be severely diminished."

Why should we advocate for an international law of ecocide?

Despite the existence of many international agreements – codes of conduct, UN Resolutions, Treaties, Conventions, Protocols etc – environmental harm is escalating. Not one of these international agreements prohibits ecocide. The power of recognising ecocide as a crime, is that it creates a legal duty of care that holds persons of ‘superior responsibility’ to account in a criminal court of law.

The impact of including ecocide law as an international crime will be significant; prohibiting dangerous industrial activity that causes ecocide and exacerbates climate change has the potential to be a game changer on a global scale.

Ecocide is a crime against the living natural world – ecosystem loss, damage or destruction is occurring every day; for instance, the Athabasca Tar Sands.  Ecocide is a crime against the Earth, not just humans. Further, ecocide can also be climate crime: dangerous industrial activity causes climate ecocide. Currently there is a missing responsibility to protect. Unlike crimes against humanity, ecocide has severe impact on inhabitants, not just humans. Thus, what is required is the expansion of our collective duty of care to protect the natural living world and all life. International ecocide crime is a law to protect the Earth.

What's the process for making ecocide a criminal offence in international law?

Criminalising ecocide at an international level requires one or more nation state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to propose the inclusion of ecocide to the existing “most serious crimes of concern”. You can read the process that will be required to implement ecocide as an international crime of the Rome Statute here.

The organisation "Eradicating Ecocide", founded by the late Polly Higgins, have carried out ground-breaking work to advocate for the creation of an international law of ecocide.  Visit the Eradicating Ecocide website to read about their work, and read their proposed Model Law and about its history here.

Existing ecocide laws currently exist in ten countries

Ecocide is already recognised as a crime in the domestic or national laws of ten countries.  To read about these laws, visit Eradicating Ecocide's website.

How can you support the creation of ecocide laws?

Recent articles about ecocide, and the tragic death of Polly Higgins

Jonathan Watts, Guardian (Australia), 22 April 2019