A British lawyer has launched a campaign to have the mass destruction of ecosystems recognised by the United Nations as a serious crime on par with crimes against humanity and genocide, the April 9 British Guardian said.
The proposal, pushed by lawyer Polly Higgins, is for the UN to list ecocide as a fifth "crime against peace". This could open companies responsible for environmental destruction to prosecution at the International Criminal Court.
The ICC currently can hear cases related to four recognised crimes against peace: genocide, war crimes, crimes of aggression, and crimes against humanity.
The Guardian said, if Higgins' proposal was adopted, it could have a "profound effect on industries blamed for widespread damage to the environment like fossil fuels, mining, agriculture, chemicals and forestry".
Higgins, a former employment lawyer, has already campaigned for a Universal Declaration for Planetary Rights at the UN. This proposal is backed by the Bolivian government of President Evo Morales, which is pushing for a full UN vote on the matter.
"Ecocide is in essence the very antithesis of life", Higgins said. "It leads to resource depletion, and where there is escalation of resource depletion, war comes chasing behind.
"Where such destruction arises out of the actions of mankind, ecocide can be regarded as a crime against peace."
The Guardian said the legal definition pushed by Higgins is: "The extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished."
Higgins argued that ecocide should be considered a fifth crime against peace with a simple equation: extraction [of resources] leads to ecocide, which leads to resource depletion, and resource depletion leads to conflict.
The Guardian said Higgins would launch her campaign via a website,