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.


  1. #1 romunov
    June 1, 2009

    As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. I’ve noticed our EU politicians are mostly full of latter. As long as there will be a strong lobby behind the politicians (who actually puts them in position) and an inactive populus, we will hear a lot about protecting environment, but little will be done in that direction.

    You may even have laws forbidding you to do this or that in order to conserve nature or the environment, but there is little or no political will to enforce it, to clean up the rows of institutions, and more importantly, persons, responsible. …at least in Slovenia.

  2. #2 JSM
    June 1, 2009

    Given the unambiguous, succinct and positive answer from the Liberal Democrats, what on earth makes you summarise that only the Greens believe “that a globalised world needs globalised solutions”?

  3. #3 Frank the SciencePunk
    June 1, 2009

    @2 JSM – because like we all learned at school, you have to show your working to get the mark!

    Yes, Euan’s answer is a positive one, but it’s not clear from his answer whether the Lib Dems have a thought-out policy on international co-operation for ecological crimes or whether he just thinks it sounds like a neat idea.

    Perhaps we can bend his ear on this issue?

  4. #4 JSM
    June 2, 2009

    Sounds like you may be part way to acknowledging that your conclusion was insufficiently supported by your results!

    I am not so fussed about it misleading us swots who come to this site, as I suspect we will all be approaching this assessment of the parties’ science policies in a more Bayesian manner (or with our own sets of prejudices and preconceptions, for those who prefer the traditional terminology). However, “science blog survey says only Party X really gets issue A” is, in its own small way, quite a nice lollipop to hand Party X’s campaigners.

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