The human race is consuming resources at a higher rate than ever, with our planet being unsustainably exploited - all too often in order to enhance private profit - warns MEP
Destruction of our planet is happening every day and while we are aware of some of this destruction, much of the damage is occurring out of sight. There are the high profile one-off disasters such as an oil spill or the massacre of an endangered species. But, hidden from view, is the ongoing pumping of toxic waste into our oceans, rivers and seas. And we are increasing carbon emissions as we continue to burn carbon-rich fossil fuels. Habitats and ecosystems are being destroyed as vast rainforests are cut down to make room for farming, making more and more species extinct every day. The human race is consuming resources at a higher rate than ever, with our planet being unsustainably exploited; all too often in bids to enhance private profit.
If we take the example of the exploration of tar sands in Canada, we see an extremely energy intensive process of resource extraction causing the destruction of forests, the displacement of indigenous people and higher carbon emissions than conventional energy sources. And yet companies are not destroying simply for the sake of it. It is a lucrative business opportunity. They have found a new source of energy, which they can make money from, increasing their profits. I understand that businesses have a duty to their shareholders to maximise profits, but there needs to be a balance. And companies need to be held accountable for the environmental devastation that they so often leave in their wake.
All too often, companies do not pay for their actions. Indigenous people pay. Environments pay. Wildlife pays. Ecosystems pay. Companies do not. Governments, legal bodies and international institutions simply do not make them pay. Just as there is no such thing as 'cheap food' - a farmer is squeezed, biodiversity is compromised and are emissions increase through intensive farming methods - there is no such thing as 'cheap energy' or 'cheap fuel'. Someone or something is always losing out and as consumers of fuel and energy; we play our part in this. I am not calling for the cost of this to be given to consumers. What I am calling on is for the polluter to pay. I believe that consumers would be much happier knowing that they are not harming others in order to heat their homes or drive their cars, just as people would be happier knowing that someone was not being squeezed out of an income just so that they can have a two for one deal on a product.
Now is a crucial time for tackling the role of multinational corporations in the destruction of the planet. But how can we do it? I am a firm believer that self-regulation does not work. What we really need is some sort of code, system or law - which overrides a company's ability to exploit and destroy without responsibility for the consequences or penalties of their activity. I am very interested in the work of Polly Higgins, an international lawyer who has developed a proposal for an over-arching law - which puts environmental destruction in the same category as genocide. In essence, the law of Ecocide. I have invited Higgins to come to the European Parliament next week to explain to myself and other MEPs exactly how this would work.
With a law of ecocide in place we could ensure better protection of the environment and protection of finite resources. Perhaps the law could even be used to improve business practices in general. We need a fairer deal for the planet and its people. We need to ethically refocus commerce, marking a transition from maximum resource and worker exploitation toward improved environmental stewardship and better terms and conditions for workers. Businesses could and should be playing an important social role in their communities. An international law of Ecocide, with real teeth to ensure that businesses that break this law would pay hefty fines, would encourage sustainable and ethical trade - resulting in a more sustainable economy and a sustainable world.Keith Taylor is a Green Party MEP for South East England, in the United Kingdom, and is speaking at the Eradicating Ecocide event
The "real teeth" of a law of Ecocide needs to be criminal prosecutions resulting in CEO's spending time in prison. This isn't about fines (that just offset profits, but never counter them), this is about making those responsible pay with years of the life. And it has to be the CEOs and the bankers who bankroll the projects, not some lackey that the CEO discards as his scape-goat. Convictions, not fines.
Stuart Basden - Toronto