Environmental crimes cost us billions: sanctions must reflect this

The European Union must step up action to tackle an environmental crime spree that is costing us billions, that’s the conclusion of a new EEB report published today.

The report entitled ‘Crime and Punishment’ presents a series of recommendations to Member States and the European Commission to improve the investigation and sanctioning of environmental crimes in the EU. It calls for increased resources and capacity to investigate crimes and the setting of clear guidelines to align sanctions between Member States.

The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental organisations with more than 160 members in over 30 countries.

Environmental crime, including logging, mining, waste dumping and the illegal wildlife trade, is one of the most profitable types of criminal activity, worth an estimated $258 billion every year. [1]

The report shows that not all environmental crimes are currently recognised as such in the European Union, which leads to inadequate and low sanctions.

Francesca Carlsson, EEB Legal Officer said:

“Environmental crimes are costing us billions as well as costing the Earth, it’s not acceptable that criminals are getting away with these crimes, or only receiving low sanctions if they are caught. We need more resources for law enforcement all over Europe to ensure that environmental crimes are adequately investigated and punished.”

Some key recommendations in the report are:

  • Precise EU guidelines on sanctions for environmental crimes should be developed to help judges award dissuasive penalties in a uniform way across the EU
  • Sanctions should reflect the high profits and lucrative nature of environmental crimes
  • Member States have to impose criminal liability on corporations so that both individuals and companies can be held criminally liable. The EU should take enforcement action against the Member States who fail to do this.
[1] https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/7662/-The_rise_of_environmental_crime_A_growing_threat_to_natural_resources_peace%2C_development_and_security-2016environmental_crimes.pdf.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y