Campaigners back proposals for ecocide law in Scotland

Campaigners back proposals for ecocide law in Scotland

Campaigners have backed proposals for a new ecocide law in Scotland.

Such a law would establish a specific crime for causing mass environmental damage. The move would fulfil the decade-long campaign of the Scottish barrister Polly Higgins, who passed away in 2019.

Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon is leading the Holyrood push to introduce ecocide legislation and a consultation is due to be launched later this year.

Stop Ecocide International, was founded by Jojo Mehta and Ms Higgins in 2017.

Ms Higgins who died of cancer at the age of 50 grew up in Glasgow, where she attended St Aloysius’ College before studying at Aberdeen, Utrecht and Glasgow Universities. She called to the English bar in 1998 and specialised in corporate and employment law.

In 2010 she launched a campaign for ecocide to be recognised as an international crime, saying that it “leads to resource depletion, and where there is escalation of resource depletion, war comes chasing behind. Where such destruction arises out of the actions of mankind, ecocide can be regarded as a crime against peace.”

In 2021, legal experts agreed on a definition of ecocide.

The draft law defines the offence as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts”.

Stop Ecocide International executive director Ms Mehta said: “It’s been a really steady development over the last couple of years since we connected with Monica [Lennon] - and she’s been very enthusiastic.

“And I think there’s a real sense of Scottishness around it.

“I say this because the pioneering lawyer that I co-founded Stop Ecocide with, Polly Higgins, was from Scotland, so there’s a sense of the concept coming home which I think is a strong one.

“Also, of course, Scotland is so known for its absolutely beautiful landscapes and its beautiful nature. There’s an emotional connection people can make with this law in Scotland.”

Ms Lennon said: “It means the world to have the support of Jojo Mehta, who is truly a powerhouse and an inspiration to people around the world. As the climate crisis worsens, Scotland needs a stronger deterrent to prevent heinous acts of environmental harm.

“Criminals who are damaging Scotland’s precious natural environment do not fear the law, and that must change.

“In fighting for Scotland’s environment to have the protection it deserves, it’s humbling to carry on the work started by an incredible Scottish woman, the late Polly Higgins.”

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