I recently came across a term that was new to me: “International Environmental Court”, sometimes referred to, ominously, as the “International Environmental Criminal Court”.
The good news is that no such court exists. The bad news is that some quite heavy-weight voices are calling for it to be created, along the lines of the International Criminal Court. Not surprisingly, lawyers themselves are at the forefront of such calls. A cynic might observe that they expect to make rather a great deal of money out of it. There is a chap called Mr Paul Garlick, who seems to be a very successful and distinguished lawyer, who has been making the case in the European parliament (though somehow I managed to miss his representations).
On the face of it, where’s the problem? Environmental issues (as we are boringly and repetitively told, as though it were a great aperçu) cross national boundaries, so wouldn’t it be a good thing to have an international court, to bring environmental miscreants to justice, to determine penalties, and award compensation?
There are two problems with this approach. The first is the general objection (which applies in spades to the International Criminal Court) that the various international jurisdictions which proliferating, created by the likes of the UN and the EU, are increasingly remote from any pretence of democratic accountability. They take on a life of their own, and become prosecutor, judge and jury in their own interests. A leading function of any nation is to protect its nationals, which includes having a national system of justice which citizens understand and respect. The nation is simply not doing its job if it hands over its citizens to the tender mercies of foreign judicial systems, whether of other nations or of supra-national courts.
This is why the USA (rightly in my view) has refused to sign up to the ICC. This is why we should oppose the EU’s European Arrest Warrant, which has led to case after case of injustice, with British citizens subject to interminable, incomprehensible, Kafkaesque procedures in foreign courts.
It may be true that pollution is no respecter of national boundaries. But it is also usually pretty clear where an incident took place, and therefore what jurisdiction should deal with it. It may well be that oil from the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico may end up on the beaches of Cornwall. But there will be little doubt that litigation would be most appropriate in American courts, where no doubt the good landladies of Cornwall can bring a class action if so minded.
But there is a much more serious objection, which rests not on the nature of the jurisdiction, but on the definition of the crime. No doubt any such Environmental Court would start out with clear violations, like Bhopal and BP, where arguably errors by companies led to clear and defined damage. Fair enough. But there have already been calls to treat doubts about the theory of global warming as “environmental crimes”. And these calls come not from lunatics, but from distinguished members of the Warmist establishment (though on second thoughts, they probably are also lunatics!).
No less a person than James Hansen of NASA, Al Gore’s climate Guru and a frequent witness before Congressional enquiries, has called coal-fired power stations “factories of death”, and dubbed coal trains “death trains”. In 2008 he called for trials of climate sceptics for “high crimes against humanity.” A court in Britain cleared climate protesters who had clearly caused criminal damage at a power station on the grounds that their actions were justified by their environmental concerns. Warmist theory trumps conventional law. In a US magazine “Grist”, staff writer David Roberts called for the Nuremberg-style trials for the “bastards” who were members of what he termed the global warming “denial industry.”
Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lashed out at sceptics in 2007 declaring “This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors” In 2009, RFK, Jr. also called coal companies “criminal enterprises” and declared CEO’s “should be in jail… for all of eternity.” In June 2009, former Clinton Administration official Joe Romm defended a comment on his Climate Progress website warning that sceptics would be strangled in their beds. “An entire generation will soon be ready to strangle you and your kind while you sleep in your beds,” stated the remarks, which Romm defended by calling them “not a threat, but a prediction.”
So you can imagine how easily an International Environmental Court could slip from prosecuting oil spills to prosecuting dissenters. Then what price free speech? I’ve seen it argued that the term “genocide” has recently been stretched to cover events that, however odious, scarcely bear comparison with the Holocaust. And we’ve seen the grounds for asylum claims drift from “clear and present danger” to “I don’t feel very comfortable in my home country”. How soon before dissent on global warming becomes “Ecocide”, and climate realists are dragged before an international court with its own agenda and no right of appeal? Fanciful? Let’s not risk it.