Culture

Top Shell bosses accused of climate ecocide in The Hague

Polly Higgins launches revolutionary investigation

Polly at The Hague - Museon

Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Eric Wiebes, the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell Ben van Beurden and the CEO of Shell Netherlands Marjan van Loon were today identified as principal suspects in an independent preliminary examination into the potential crime of climate ecocide.

At a special event in the Hague accompanying the annual Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court, UK barrister and internationally renowned ecocide law expert, Polly Higgins, announced that independent investigative work has already commenced.

“The examination shall scrutinise evidence suggesting that Shell, a Carbon Major and one of the largest investor owned carbon producers in the world, knew that significant adverse impacts arise from their activities. Crucially, evidence has come to light to suggest that the public has been misled over a lengthy period of 30+ years, and such evidence could amount to a crime.” The result of Shell activities in Nigeria

Ms Higgins said: "The fact that ecocide occurs during peacetime does not make it any less of an atrocity, or any less of a crime. We live in an age where the consequences of dangerous industrial activity are long-term, transboundary and can be felt on the other side of the world.”

“Climate negotiations are silent on the potential criminality of state and corporate activity. This is despite the fact that the most recent IPCC report asserts that ‘limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes’ to prevent climate catastrophe. With climate crime, what has to be established is whether there is a dereliction of a duty of care as well as a missing state responsibility to protect the public from dangerous industrial activity and its consequences. Hurricanes will not wait whilst we endlessly vacillate over unenforceable pledges.”

The International Criminal Court (ICC) welcomes communications filed by individuals. The present examination goes beyond the threshold ICC requirements, to determine additionally whether there is sufficient evidence to satisfy the elements of a crime of ecocide and if so whether, on the evidence, there are grounds to trigger the rapid establishment of ecocide as an atrocity crime. Findings shall be subject to the same stringent conditions and rigorous scrutiny as required by official ICC procedures.

“I look forward to publicly reporting our findings,” said Ms Higgins. “If the evidence shows that industrial activity known to exacerbate climate breakdown has been permitted to continue, then both the Dutch government minister and Shell’s senior officers could be held responsible for pervasive impacts on the world’s population at large, including the systemic and widespread collapse of ecosystems.”

Shell has repeatedly been put on notice. A high-profile shareholder challenge was raised in May 2018. A legal notice of intent to sue, for failing to act on climate change, has been served by Friends of the Earth Netherlands. The Philippine Commission on Human Rights are currently holding an international climate enquiry into the responsibility of Carbon Majors, including Shell. The Dutch Urgenda Foundation filed a successful climate suit against the Dutch Government, who now seek to challenge the legality of the ruling.

“Ecocide crime is an idea whose time has come. It is the missing international crime of our time,” said Ms Higgins. “For frontline states suffering the devastating effects of severe weather and rising sea levels, COP24 is the wrong forum. You can’t negotiate with a typhoon. But here at the International Criminal Court there is another route, one based on justice, for some of the smallest states in the world who can advance ecocide crime as an urgent amendment to the Rome Statute.”

The key suspects are:

  • the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell Ben van Beurden,
  • the CEO of Shell Netherlands Marjan van Loon and also
  • the Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Eric Wiebes.

Independent investigative work has already commenced. As Polly is right now explaining, the examination shall scrutinise evidence suggesting that Shell knew that significant adverse impacts arise from their activities. Crucially, evidence has come to light to suggest that the public has been misled over a lengthy period of 30+ years, and such evidence could amount to a crime.

Climate crime

Climate negotiations are silent on the potential criminality of state and corporate activity. This is despite the fact that the most recent IPCC report asserts that‘limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes’ to prevent climate catastrophe. With climate crime, what has to be established is whether there is a dereliction of a duty of care as well as a missing state responsibility to protect the public from dangerous industrial activity and its consequences. Hurricanes will not wait whilst we endlessly vacillate over unenforceable pledges.

Complying with ICC requirements

ICC in The Hague

The International Criminal Court (ICC) already welcomes communications filed by individuals. The present examination goes beyond ICC requirements, to determine additionally whether there is sufficient evidence to satisfy the elements of a crime of ecocide and if so whether, on the evidence, there are grounds to trigger the rapid establishment of ecocide as an atrocity crime. Findings shall be subject to the same stringent conditions and rigorous scrutiny as required by official ICC procedures.

“I look forward to publicly reporting our findings,” says Polly. “If the evidence shows that industrial activity known to exacerbate climate breakdown has been permitted to continue, then both the Dutch government minister and Shell's senior officers could be held responsible for pervasive impacts on the world's population at large, including the systemic and widespread collapse of ecosystems.”

The space is opening up…

So now, it's out there. And coming hot on the heels of Pacific island state Vanuatu announcing its willingness to use international law to seek redress for climate damage, a space is finally opening up.

It's a space we know will be hugely supported by grassroots civil society and by many organizations around the world. And for those small frontline states suffering severe weather damage and rising sea levels - states for whom climate negotiations have never provided the answers - we trust it shall be a safe and public space to take the next courageous steps. Perhaps, in truth, they are indeed Great Ocean States who can lead the way…

Follow, share, contribute

We urge you to follow closely and contribute to the evolution of whatever comes next… in the press, on social media, with NGOs, governments and at grassroots level. And signing up to Mission LifeForce has never been easier, as you'll find HERE.

#OneEarthOneLaw #MissionLifeForce

May the lifeforce be with us all.

missionlifeforce.org

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