Tuesday 13 September 2011

Polly Higgins stands up for the rightless environment

Environmental lawyer's dream to make ecocide a crime

Daniel Bateman
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
© The Cairns Post

Corporate polluters would be forced to stand before the International Criminal Court to answer for crimes against the environment under a proposed United Nations law change.

Environmental lawyer and activist Polly Higgins is campaigning for ecocide – damage caused to the environment – to be classed as a crime against peace under United Nations law, alongside genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes.

The London barrister, who presented a talk at James Cook University in Cairns last night on her proposal, said it would make corporations more accountable for their actions.

Up to 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico last year after a BP oil rig exploded. The White House described the disaster as the worst the US had faced.

Ms Higgins said under the proposed laws, damaging and destructive activity to the environment would be criminalised.

"By creating a law of ecocide, what we do is we impose a legal duty of care on not just corporations but also governments to assist those who are at risk of ecocide, or have adversely been impacted by it," she said.

Environmental protection agencies such as Queensland’s EPA, operated with laws that did not fit their purpose, she said.

Penalties only existed if the culprit was caught.

"Companies can litigate their way out ... pay it off, or even sidestep it – close down and open up tomorrow under a new name. It doesn’t stop anyone,’’ she said.
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An inspirational speaker. I had the privilege to hear her speak at JCU last night. I do believe it is only a matter of time that we give mother earth legal standing. The earth, Australia cannot continue to gouge out the earth's crust without creating an irreversible nightmare. The earth needs legal standing, the earth needs a voice.

Ross Parisi

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