Turin, 30 January 2017. Environmental crime does not currently have a universally agreed upon definition, however it is regularly used to refer to almost any illegal activity that harms the environment for the (often financial) benefit of individuals, groups or companies. This can involve illegal exploitation and trafficking of natural resources, including flora and fauna, and soil and water contamination from illegal waste dumping. Some environmental crimes also fall into the category of serious organised trans-national crime as criminal groups and networks are increasingly engaged in what is currently representing a growing lucrative opportunity. Very often the modus operandi of criminal networks involve corruption and money laundering in association to crimes against the environment.
Environmental crime is estimated to be worth between US$91-259 billion in losses to society in the way that it undermines governance, business and taxes. Environmental crimes are considered particularly serious because, in addition to the financial and social losses, they also pose an irreversible threat to ecosystems and economies.
Reliable information is needed to support an improved approach to combating environmental crime, as there is still much that is unknown about the activities, their linkages to other crime categories, and the impacts states and the international community experience.To this end, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has partnered with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) to undertake the project Environmental rule of law: advancing justice, governance and law for environmental sustainability. The project will document the current understanding of environmental crimes amongst the international community; particularly regarding common criminal trends and States’ approaches to addressing environmental crimes. It will involve extensive research and two review meetings with experts from around the world.
The objective of this project is to provide Member States with options to consider for the development of holistic approaches to enhance their ability to address environmental crimes. Through this work, the international community will be better equipped with research and best practice recommendations to effectively address crimes that have serious impacts on the environment.