The International Criminal Court must work to prosecute crimes that result in environmental destruction, the Vanuatu Attorney General says.
Arnold Kiel Loughman was addressing the Assembly of State Parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at a side event about the long-term significant adverse impact of Climate Change at The Hague his week.
Mr Loughman said that natural disasters have increased over the last years and are a costly and existential threat to all Pacific states.
Speaking on behalf of the Vanuatu Government, AG Loughman shared the panel with Polly Higgins, an international lawyer, barrister and expert on Ecocide law. Kirsten Meersschaert, Director of Programs and Head of Office at the Coalition of the International Criminal Court, moderated.
The panel suggested an integrated approach to justice, peace and climate change.
Panelists appealed to the ICC to increase its involvement on this matter building on the recently released Office of the Prosecutor’s ‘Policy Paper on Case Selection and Prioritisation’ that has announced its intent to prioritize prosecutions of ‘Rome Statute crimes that are committed by means of, or that result in the destruction of the environment’.
Mr Loughman told the ICC it was important to recognize that it is a collective responsibility, referring to naturally occurring disasters that are triggered by dangerous industrial activity being undertaken by corporations, usually in major continents.
“It is my conviction that climate change and destruction related to it will eventually be part of the ICC’s fight against impunity; it is only a matter of time.
“If it is inevitable, we might as well start acting now rather than waiting until it’s too late.”
The AG spoke of the harm already occurring in other Pacific states, highlighting the plight of Papua New Guinea’s deforestation by a foreign company who, through lack of international environmental law, evades prosecution.
“The fact that a whole patch of forest has been cleared – subsistence rights lost, what we are talking about here is the very survival of people. It’s important to recognize that it is a collective responsibility and then later down the road attribute criminal responsibility.”