Polly Higgins (Scottish) is an international lawyer, UK based barrister, award-winning author and lead Ecocide law expert.
Her proposal to expand the remit of the International Criminal Court to include Ecocide as an international crime (to stand alongside genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression) will ensure global governance and protection against some of the most egregious crimes, namely State and corporate crime that causes or fails to prevent climate disasters as well as other ecological catastrophes.
Polly has been hailed as one of the World’s Top 10 Visionary Thinkers by the Ecologist and celebrated as The Planet’s Lawyer by the 2010 Change Awards. Founder of the Earth Law Alliance and The Earth Community Trust, she has garnered a number of awards for her work advocating for a law of Ecocide. She received an Honoris Causa Doctorate from Business School Lausanne 2013; in the same year she became the Honorary Arne Naess Professor at Oslo University. Her first book, Eradicating Ecocide, won the Peoples Book Prize in 2011 (updated 2nd edition, September 2015). In November 2015 VPRO (Dutch BBC) featured a documentary about her work, called Advocate for the Earth. She is ranked as No.35 in Salt magazine’s 2016 Top 100 Inspiring Women of the world list.
Polly Higgins’ commitment to advancing an international crime of Ecocide has impact. By criminalising ecocide – significant harm to the Earth – millions of lives and countless habitats shall be saved. All of the planet shall benefit from this one global law.
The passing of an amendment to the Rome Statute (the governing document of the International Criminal Court) to include Ecocide as a crime requires one or more of its 123 signatories to propose the text; thereafter a 2/3 majority of support. Much of Polly’s work (often unfunded) is providing legal advice to States that have the largest environmental challenges and at the same time extremely limited financial resources.
In terms of impact, WMO climate data accurately demonstrates a future where Ecocide law is not implemented. Within the context of climate change, the impact in terms of human and species lives saved, lands and oceans protected, as well as reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, is incalculable. In terms of impact on many generations to come, this is one law that will help create a world of greater peace.
Public speaking includes guest lectures at numerous universities including New York University, University of California Berkeley, University of London, Uppsala University and University of British Columbia. Notable public talks include the EARTHtalks at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna; Keynote Speaker at the 9th Annual International Student Conference in Strasbourg; and Lead Speaker at the Tobias Leadership Conference, Colorado; the Rachel Carson 50th Anniversary Memorial Lecture (both in London and in the Netherlands); Lead Speaker at the International Leadership Association’s Annual Global Conference; Keynote Speaker at the World Peace Conference, the RSA London (and book launch) as well as a number of TED talks. Polly speaks on a diverse range of platforms, from business to peace, from law to ecology.
In November 2015 Advocate for the Earth (VPRO documentary), profiling lawyers advocating for Ecocide law, led to questions being asked in the Dutch Parliament (The Netherlands had been one of the few countries to object to Ecocide as a Crime under the Rome Statute during the initial drafting). You can watch Advocate for the Earth (in English) or here for the short 15 minute version (with Spanish transcript).
A number of lawyers now operate pro-bono as part of the Ecocide law response team who advise and assist States that lack the financial backing of western nations. Polly and her team advise and provide briefing sessions to climate vulnerable States on climate crime. The team are not paid by States, nor by organisations. Each lawyer offers their time freely to advise without vested interest.
Ecocide law seeks to re-balance the greatest injustice of our time; the lack of a legal duty of care. As such, existing duties prioritise profit. Profit that arises out of ecocide has long-term, significant adverse consequences; at the moment it is not a crime to cause extensive damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems. As a result, dangerous industrial activity continues unabated and the knock-on impact of loss and damage remains unaddressed.
In April 2010 a fully drafted proposal was submitted into the United Nations by Polly Higgins. This quickly led to her ongoing full-time advisory work on Ecocide law to many governments, NGO’s, the UN and other related organisations. She advises and speaks as an advocate for Ecocide law throughout the world at all levels; political, economic and ecological.
Polly Higgins’ award-winning book Eradicating Ecocide: laws and governance to prevent the destruction of our planet (1st Ed 2010, 2nd Ed 2015) – sets out her full proposal that was submitted to the United Nations. Her second book, Earth is our Business (pub. 2012), examines Ecocide law from the perspective of business impact and includes the draft Ecocide Act and indictments that were used in the mock Ecocide trial held in the UK Supreme Court in 2011.
ACADEMIA & LAW
First Class MA Hons degree, Aberdeen University (1986-90) and a concurrent First Class Diploma from Utrecht University; Post-graduate degree from Glasgow University (1991). Polly Higgins moved to London to study law at City University (1996) prior to entering the Inns of Court School of Law (1997-98). She was called to the English Bar in 1998. She trained as a pupil at the Chambers of Baroness Scotland of Astral QC and was a tenant at Bridewell Chambers. She has received an Honoris Causa Doctorate from Business School Lausanne (2013) for her services to the planet and was the Honorary Arne Naess Professor at Oslo University (2013-14).
P. Higgins, Eradicating Ecocide: laws and governance to prevent the destruction of our Earth, Shepheard-Walwyn, London (First Ed. 2010, Second Ed. 2015).
P. Higgins, Earth is our Business: changing the rules of the game, Shepheard-Walwyn, London (2011).
P. Higgins, I Dare You To Be Great, Writersworld UK (First Ed. 2014, Second Ed. 2015, Third Ed. 2016)
JOURNAL ARTICLES/RESEARCH PAPERS
D. Short, L. Kubicki, A. Gauger, M. Pouye, P. Higgins, Ecocide is the Missing 5th Crime Against Peace, Human Rights Consortium, (2012, 2013).
P. Higgins, D. Short, and N. South, Protecting the Planet: A Proposal for a Law of Ecocide, Crime, Law and Social Change 59, no. 3 (2013) 251–66.
GOVERNMENT BRIEFING DOCUMENT
P. Higgins, Closing the Door to Dangerous Industrial Activity, Concept Paper, Earth Community Trust (2012).
SOME RECENT ECOCIDE LAW DISCOURSE
B. Lay, L. Neyret, D. Short, A.Oposa, Timely and Necessary: Ecocide Law as Urgent and Emerging, The Journal of Jurisprudence, Vol 28 (2015) J.Juris 431 – 452.
Revue Internationale Interdisciplinaire, L’Ordre public écologique: Du concept à la juridicité, Editions L’Harmattan (2014).
S Jodoin & M-C Segger (Eds), Sustainable Development, International Criminal Justice, and Treaty Implementation, Cambridge University Press, (2013)
F Wijdekop, The duty to care for our common home, New Internationalist (2016)
Here is a small sample of press coverage:
British campaigner urges UN to accept ‘ecocide’ as international crime Juliette Jowitt, The Guardian
Is Ecocide a Crime? Time Magazine
Big thinker: Polly Higgins Al Jazeera Earthrise
Moment of reckoning? CBNC, October 2011
Polly Higgins: let us stand up for climate justice Award-winning Swedish eco blog Supermiljöbloggen
UK supreme court explores ‘ecocide’ in mock trial Deutsche Welle
Is Ecocide a crime? Time Magazine
Supreme Court stages mock ‘ecocide’ trial Financial Times
Mock trial finds tar sands ‘bosses’ guilty of ecocide The Independent
Stop the tar sands destruction: outlaw this ecocide The Guardian
Is there a crime of Ecocide? New Zealand parliamentarian Kennedy Graham, December 2011
Challenging climate apartheid Nnimmo Bassey, New Internationalist
Tribunal simula caso de “ecocídio” como crime contra a humanidade Mercado
Interview with Polly Higgins Scotland on Sunday, The Scotsman, May 2012
We Are Made Wise by the Responsibility of Our Future Huffington Post, May 2012
Palm Trees and Controversy: the world’s top judges and lawyers at Rio+20 Stanley Johnson, The Guardian, June 2012
Judges for the Environment: we have a crucial role to play Robert Carnwath, The Guardian, June 2012
Can Lawyers Save the Planet? Lachie McKenzie, Huffington Post, June 2012
Why the Supreme Courts can make Rio+20 a Success Stanley Johnson, The Guardian, June 2012
20 Solutions for a Sustainable Future 6th World Youth Congress 2012, June 2012
Law Against Ecocide the Key to Triggering the Green Economy Treehugger.com, June 2012
Eradicating ecocide at Rio China Dialogue, June 2012
The Earth’s advocate: Defending our environment The Independent, June 2012
Ecocide: A legal green high? BBC news, June 2012
Heroes are putting their lives on the line George Monbiot, The Guardian, July 2012
The business plan to stop ecocide The Guardian
New ecocide project launches with discovery of UN research Positive News, July 2012
What will your legacy be? Resurgence Magazine
Citizens’ initiative aims to end Ecocide in Europe Positive News, April 2013
The duty to care for our common home, Femke Wijdekop, New Internationalist, 2016
It is your funds that help Polly continue her work advocating Ecocide law. In 2012 Polly set up a unique funding concept called Heart to Heart Funding. It is an invitation to fund her as a Voice for the Earth. It is a simple ask from one heart to another, to support a quest to end Ecocide.
Ways to gift funds: JustGiving is the easiest way – however, please choose the option that works best for you. You can view all options here.
To read more about Ecocide law, please visit eradicatingecocide.com