New report details path to Scots ecocide law

New report details path to Scots ecocide law

A new report commissioned by the Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland (ERCS) considers how the support for criminalising ecocide could translate into a workable domestic offence in Scotland.

The report cautions that without sufficient investment in environmental enforcement agencies and existing methods of environmental protection, the impact of an ecocide law is likely to be limited.

The report comes after Monica Lennon MSP launched a public consultation in November 2023 on her proposed member’s bill to create a Scottish ecocide law, and is intended to inform proposals for the criminalisation of ecocide – the mass-destruction of nature – in Scotland.

Co-authored by legal experts Dr Rachel Killean and Professor Damien Short, the report draws from existing and developing ecocide laws across the world.

After reviewing approaches to the domestic criminalisation of ecocide, the report moves on to discuss legal definitions and examples of implementation, sentencing, and enforcement which could be considered for Scotland.

Finding ‘no evidence’ that criminalising ecocide would make ‘a substantial difference to environmental protection on its own’, the report recommends prioritising investment into Scotland’s environmental enforcement agencies and tackling existing environmental crimes effectively.

Ecocide has increasingly gained attention as a mechanism to hold the worst polluters to account for severe environmental destruction. The European Parliament voted to criminalise ‘cases comparable to ecocide’ as part of a new Environmental Crime Directive in February, while a number of countries including Belgium have made recent moves to introduce ecocide laws.

Dr Shivali Fifield, chief officer at ERCS, said: “Our report looks at what Scotland can learn from approaches across the world to create a meaningful and enforceable ecocide law here. We are so grateful to Dr Killean and Prof Short for their analysis and I urge you to read the report and take note of their five recommendations.

“The first critical question they ask is: ‘Why create a domestic ecocide law?’ The ecocide roundtable ERCS convened in January was clear that the current extent of ecological harm and degradation in Scotland is largely due to the lack of enforcement of existing environmental laws.

“Incorporating ecocide into Scots law must be seen in the context of improving the overall environmental governance regime, including establishing a dedicated Scottish Environment Court. Only then will we be able to forcefully hold polluters to account and send a clear message that no infringement of environmental law will be tolerated in Scotland.”

Monica Lennon MSP said: “This welcome report recognises the unprecedented levels of support for making ecocide a crime nationally and globally. My member’s bill proposal seeks to place Scotland at the forefront of ecocide law. The ERCS ecocide report makes a positive contribution to the debate.

“No single piece of legislation can tackle climate, nature and pollution threats alone, but ecocide law has the potential to make a huge difference.

“I am grateful to everyone who responded to my consultation and to experts who are taking the time to examine how we can make ecocide law work well in Scotland.”

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