In a very significant move, after more than 200 conservation NGOs called on the WHO to ban live wildlife markets this week, a bipartisan group of US lawmakers have followed suit. The UK government will, I am confident, do the same in due course, but we must think bigger than that.

The international community must use the shared tragedy of COVID-19 as the catalyst for incorporating planetary health into all future multilateral agreements, and – most importantly – for this to be legally binding. There is a mechanism for this: Ecocide should be added to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Banning wildlife markets and properly enforcing the laws around wildlife crime is an obvious starting point, but what we require is a seismic shift in the way we treat our natural resources; enshrining Ecocide into law would be that seismic shift.

In a global economy natural resources are shared resources: when China fails to police the wildlife trade we all suffer; when Brazil burns the Amazon we all suffer; when Australia’s domestic policies lead to the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef we all suffer, and it is time that the perpetrators of these globally-significant crimes be held accountable by the rest of the international community.

When governments, corporations and individuals breach human rights, they are made to suffer the costs politically, financially and in restriction of trade or liberty. The time has come for Ecocide – crimes against nature – to be treated the same way as genocide and other crimes against humanity, because crimes against nature are crimes against humanity. 

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  • Niall McCann

    National Geographic Explorer. Conservation Director. PhD Conservation Biology. Presenter. Speaker. Mountain Rescue. FRGS