Climate crimes against humanity

Have you been inconvenienced by a climate protest? Why do they do it? 

Climate activists aren’t just protesting about a cause close to their hearts, they are protesting because the criminal justice system has failed to protect them and their families from the companies that continue to heat up our planet, which will eventually lead to billions of deaths.

Many climate activists have stated in court that it should be the leaders of big polluting industries and the politicians who support them on trial, rather than the protestors who are drawing attention to these crimes.

Whether these crimes are called crimes against humanity, genocide or ecocide is a moot point. Genocide is already part of international law, ecocide will hopefully become international law very soon. But the grave seriousness of the situation is clear.

• The Environment Agency warns that the infrastructure that supports civilisation is in danger of collapse;

• The UK’s official climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, warn of disruption to our food supplies in the 2040s and a dramatic reduction in arable farming output;

• The Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) has warned that parts of the world will soon become uninhabitable, with unprecedented crop failure and food insecurity driving mass migration; 

• The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research warns that half the world’s population could be killed with 4C of global heating;

UNICEF warns that over 1 billion children already suffer from some form of exposure to extreme climate risk, with 600 million children now being exposed to increased risk of vector-borne disease.

I suspect that many magistrates do not realise we live in a society that is killing hundreds of thousands of people every year and is on track to kill billions. They don’t know that what we do now determines how many people will be killed in the coming decades. The greatest crimes against humanity are already happening. 

In 2019 Jon Fuller led an attempt to prosecute key UK political figures for crimes against humanity and genocide by causing climate breakdown. A detailed case was submitted to the War Crimes Team at the Metropolitan Police, but they refused to mount a criminal investigation. The case was referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) which is now considering the case because they do not accept the police reason not to prosecute.

On 12 October 2021, a case was submitted to the ICC in connection with crimes against humanity associated with climate breakdown committed by the President of Brazil. As more national criminal justice systems fail to protect their citizens, other cases will be lodged with the ICC.

English law needs updating to include the crime of ecocide. The police have refused to investigate those who kill by polluting the planet, despite making it clear that they do not dispute that hundreds of thousands of people are being killed every year.  

Photo:Science Museum London. Credit: Andrea Domeniconi. 

The criminal justice system has failed to protect us from dangerous polluters, so Extinction Rebellion and other groups protest to stop the emissions and the pollution. Some members of Extinction Rebellion have disobeyed in the dock, disrupting the court.

If the criminal justice system acted to stop the killers, there would be no need for protests on the streets. Protesters are trying to stop ecocide and genocide, but the English Courts remain determined to put on trial, convict and sentence our finest, most courageous citizens – the environmental protesters.

This situation will escalate because the police have lobbied the government for tougher penalties to stop the ability of the British people to protest against the killings. Magistrates will soon be asked to impose tougher sentences on citizens trying to stop ecocide and the billions of deaths associated with it.

Why don’t magistrates initiate a moratorium on plea hearings and trials of environmental campaigners who have undertaken peaceful action to stop ecocide and genocide? The moratorium could remain in place until the decision by the International Criminal Court has been made on the two cases now before it.

When judges sentenced black slaves to death, or upheld the cruelty of apartheid, or sent gay men to prison, ordering chemical castration, it might be argued that the judiciary consisted of people who didn’t know better. Perhaps they were a product of the cruelty of the era in which they lived. Magistrates today have some degree of understanding of the horrors that will be inflicted upon the young around the world if we fail to act. 

Ben Manovitch, a Sheffield criminal lawyer said ““The law must be updated to protect us and enforced against the governments, mega-rich individuals and companies that are continuing to cause climate breakdown. We know their actions are costing lives, so let’s develop the justice system we need to hold them accountable, and to stop it happening.” 

At the Mock COP26 conference, a Treaty was adopted that called for a scale of penalties that match the staggering harm caused. Trials of climate criminals are coming. Extreme suffering is unfolding and the young will want retribution. l wonder if these trials will just include politicians and business leaders, or if magistrates must prepare themselves for ‘Truth & Reconciliation Commission’ hearings for crimes against humanity.

One thought on “Climate crimes against humanity

  1. I could not agree more with this article. Unless the antiquated, unjust laws are radically changed, the environmental movement will be held back from making significant progress within the time frame available to us.


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