University of Cambridge > > CCI Conservation Seminars > Sustainability through environmental liability: getting conservationists and political ecologists into the courtroom

Sustainability through environmental liability: getting conservationists and political ecologists into the courtroom

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Preventing and mitigating environmental harm is a leading contemporary challenge, central to much of our research and to achieving both the Sustainable Development Goals. Policy makers are increasingly pressed to find ways to better recognise and address environmental externalities. While voluntary sustainability efforts have gained in importance, traditional regulation and enforcement remains a critical element in environmental governance. Civil lability for environmental harm, based on the “polluter pays” principle, has significant implications for the sustainability agenda. It requires responsible parties to remedy the environmental harm they cause, potentially through actions such as restoration, apologies, investments into education and financial compensation. Related litigation can thus simultaneously provide corrective justice functions and deter future harms. Although not a new concept, the potential of liability for environmental harm is underexploited globally, particularly in the context of harms such as illegal deforestation, fishing, mining and wildlife trafficking. Moreover, most natural and social scientists—particularly political ecologists and conservationists with an interest in environmental justice and sustainability—remain under-engaged with the judicial system.

Based on comparisons across tropical developing countries, with a focus on the Indonesian example, this talk will explore the opportunities and challenges associated with liability for environmental harm in the context of tropical biodiversity. It will highlight the role of scientists in shaping an interdisciplinary agenda that mobilises people studying the Anthropocene to more assertively serve the public interest, including through litigation.

This talk is part of the CCI Conservation Seminars series.

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