Petition Make ECOCIDE a UK criminal offence

Climate agreements and civil laws have failed to prevent escalating harm to the Earth. A criminal law of ECOCIDE would criminalise practices known to destroy ecosystems and/or exacerbate climate breakdown. It's the only way to force industry to change direction.

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ECOCIDE is defined as “extensive loss or damage to, or destruction of ecosystem(s) of a given territory(ies), such that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants has been or will be severely diminished.” [Submitted to UN Law Commission, 2010 by UK barrister Polly Higgins.] To establish seriousness, impact(s) must be widespread or long-term or severe. As with other atrocity crimes, those liable to prosecution will be persons of superior responsibility such as CEOs and government ministers.

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Government responded

This response was given on 31 July 2019

This Government is committed to improving the environment in the UK and internationally. Strong legal laws and safeguards are in place monitored by effective regulators and tiers of Government.

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The Government recognises the challenges for the environment domestically and internationally, most recently assessed in the IPBES global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The Government neither recognises the term “ecocide” nor does it intend the suggested concept a criminal offence. There are already strong regulations in place and contravention of many of these are a criminal offence.

In 2018, the Government published its 25 Year Environment Plan setting out what we will do to improve the environment within a generation adding to existing strong protections for habitats and ecosystems.

There are a variety of regulators that already monitor environmental impact of activity, that operate permitting and licensing regimes to protect the environment. These include the Environment Agency, Natural England, the Forestry Commission, the Marine Management Organisation, Ofwat, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, local authorities and Defra itself. The Devolved Administrations have their own environmental regulators. Where necessary, these bodies will challenge appropriate individuals and organisations. The Government is held to account by Parliament and ministers operate under the Ministerial code. Further remedy is available by legal action against the Government. The European Commission can also take action against the Government if it believes it is contravening EU law. It is the intention of this Government to introduce the Office of Environmental Protection to take up this role once the UK leaves the EU and legislation will be included in the forthcoming Environment Bill. It will be for the devolved administrations to decide on similar measures or bodies.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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