With the Earth on the cusp of tipping into catastrophic climate change is it not time that major polluters be tried and jailed for ecocide?
The Guardian's eco-scribe, George Monbiot, makes the argument.
I want to tell you about the world-changing work of Polly Higgins.
She is a barrister who has devoted her life to creating an international crime of ecocide. This means serious damage to, or destruction of, the natural world and the Earth’s systems. It would make the people who commission it – such as chief executives and government ministers – criminally liable for the harm they do to others, while creating a legal duty of care for life on Earth.
...It would radically shift the balance of power, forcing anyone contemplating large-scale vandalism to ask themselves: “Will I end up in the international criminal court for this?” It could make the difference between a habitable and an uninhabitable planet.
There are no effective safeguards preventing a few powerful people, companies or states from wreaking havoc for the sake of profit or power. Though their actions may lead to the death of millions, they know they can’t be touched. Their impunity, as they engage in potential mass murder, reveals a gaping hole in international law.
Last week, for instance, the research group InfluenceMap reported that the world’s five biggest publicly listed oil and gas companies, led by BP and Shell, are spending nearly $200m a year on lobbying to delay efforts to prevent climate breakdown. According to Greenpeace UK, BP has successfully pressed the Trump government to overturn laws passed by the Obama administration preventing companies from releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The result – the equivalent of another 50m tonnes of CO2 over the next five years – is to push us faster towards a hothouse Earth.
When governments collaborate (as in all these cases they do), how can such atrocities be prevented? Citizens can pursue civil suits, if they can find the money and the time, but the worst a company will face is a fine or compensation payments. None of its executives are prosecuted, though they may profit enormously from murderous destruction. They can continue their assaults on the living planet.
...at international summits, where perpetrators share platforms with states that should hold them to account, we ask them nicely not to slaughter our children. These crimes against humanity should not be matters for negotiation but for prosecution.
Until 1996, drafts of the Rome statute, which lists international crimes against humanity, included the crime of ecocide. But it was dropped at a late stage at the behest of three states: the UK, France and the Netherlands. Ecocide looked like a lost cause until Higgins took it up 10 years ago.Monbiot reveals that Ms. Higgins has recently been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and has been told she has just weeks to live. Her movement, however, will continue her work.
It's not enough, however, to bring the force of law down on major emitters. Politicians need a taste of the same lash. In Canada, superior courts including the Supreme Court of Canada have upheld the "precautionary principle" as the law of our land.
"The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is [not] harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. ...The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result.""Sound evidence" - i.e. not just Trudeau's word for it. He says they've "done the science" but the feds have never produced it. If this government had done the science they would have produced it long ago to quell their critics. Worse yet, both the Royal Society of Canada and Trudeau's own Environment Canada say this supposed science hasn't been done. Trudeau is lying.
In 2015, the Federal Court of Canada upheld the precautionary principle as part of the substantive law of our country. The Supreme Court of Canada has also applied the precautionary principle. Whether Trudeau likes it or not, it's the law and it sets the test he and this pipeline project must meet.
The prime minister, just like his predecessor, has clearly shown that they can't be trusted, especially not with the future of today's young people.