This entry is part of the Science and the European Election series, a collaboration between SciencePunk and the Lay Scientist blog to encourage public discussion of the science policies of the major parties standing at the forthcoming European elections.
Recently a ship chartered by the British offices of a Dutch petroleum company illegally dumped tonnes of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast. The European Commission has proposed the creation of criminal sentences for “ecological crimes” – do you support this action?
Tim Worstall, UKIP:
Absolutely not. We’ve been told endlessly that the European Union will not start intruding upon the law. That each member state will retain full control of the criminal justice system. Having criminal laws written in Brussels is obviously something of a breach of this principle, no?
Scott Redding, the Green Party:
Yes. These types of (alleged) environmental crime are areas where there must be international co-operation as they often involve more than one country. Several African countires have been used for dumping of wastes, including toxic electrical components and it must be right that the EU also helps to protect those states who are vulnerable to these types of activities.
Euan Roddin, the Liberal Democrats:
Yes of course
Ann Rossiter, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (via the Labour Press Office):
Neither the ship, the company, or the waste in this case are British. The reason the case is being heard in the High Court is simply that London offers a good place to take a class action of this nature, and the legal company acting on behalf of the Abdijan residents is British. Legislation already exists to prosecute companies for crimes against the environment, including illegal waste disposal. Penalties include fines or imprisonment of company managers
In today’s world, the trail from pollution to polluter can often be Byzantine in proportions. Ann Rossiter is right to point out that the UK had no direct involvement in the Trafigura case, but only the Greens understood that a globalised world needs globalised solutions. To this date, questions still remain over where the waste dumped in the Ivory Coast originated. After attempting to offload its cargo at a Dutch port, the Probo Koala declined to pay for waste treatment and set sail again. Even if suspicions were raised in Amsterdam over where the ship’s cargo may end up, Dutch port authorities had no legal means to prevent the ship leaving the Netherlands. Every country has its own laws to prosecute for environmental crimes, but there is a pressing need for more transparency in the cargo shipping industry, so that companies (and countries) can bear greater responsibility for where their waste ends up. Such action necessitates co-operation on an international level.