|DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE REGIONS|
5 April 1998
PRESCOTT LEADS NEW GLOBAL FIGHT AGAINST ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES
Environment Ministers from around the world today joined forces with
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to step up the battle against
international environmental crime.
After a top level meeting of the Group of Eight major industrialised
countries (G8) at Kent's Leeds Castle, Ministers declared war on
smugglers who trade illegally in banned products - such as
endangered species, ozone-depleting substances, and hazardous wastes.
Ministers agreed to:
* increase international efforts to train appropriate officials
in environmental enforcement (such as INTERPOL's work to develop a
training programme) and raise the priority of environmental crime for
* continue to fight the illegal trade in ozone-depleting
substances, hazardous waste, and protected species, through effective
enforcement of the existing multilateral environmental agreements;
* aim to hold a national public awareness event in each G8
country in the next year, to increase knowledge about the extent of
environmental crime, the threats it poses, and how to help fight it;
* work together internationally to share information about
environmental crimes, and improve contacts and working relationships
between Police, Customs officers and other enforcement agencies in
different countries; and
* help developing countries to comply with environmental
agreements and tackle environmental crime.
Mr Prescott said:
"We already have a neighbourhood watch to fight crime at grass roots
level - why don't we have something similar for people to help
protect the environment?
"We have agreed that we should start holding public awareness
events in each G8 country. Certainly in the UK, I know that people
are concerned about the damage to the environment but don't
necessarily know how they can play a part in stopping the worst
"Combating environmental crime is vital. Environmental law is only
effective if it is enforced: governments attach a lot of importance
to negotiating tough new environmental agreements, and we must be
equally tough about enforcing them. We want to raise the profile of
environmental crime both with other governments and with society at
"Illegal trade in wildlife, CFCs and hazardous wastes is a truly
international crime: not only are banned goods smuggled through a
number of countries, but the impacts of violating environmental
agreements in this way affect the environment and people world-wide.
"The environment is under threat from organised crime, and we must
respond. The G8 has a real opportunity to give a strong lead to other
countries by working together to crack down on this illegal trade."
Environment Minister Michael Meacher added:
"Environmental crime is big business: the same criminal
organisations who deal in drugs, arms trading or corruption are also
involved in environmental crime, because the profits can be so great.
Legitimate traders and companies who comply with the regulations are
put at a disadvantage.
"One of the problems is that many different agencies are involved,
and it's easy at the moment for criminals to slip through the net.
This is why it is essential to have good information networks to
fight environmental crime. The UK has a good record on this; now we
will work together with other governments to make our experience
The illegal wildlife trade is estimated at $5 billion a year,
compared with the legal trade which amounts to at least $20 billion;
criminal activities related to wildlife crime come second only to the
drugs trade in terms of cash value. Current estimates suggest that
illegal trade in CFCs within the EU could be some 6,000 tonnes every
NOTES TO EDITORS
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
1. Criminal activities related to wildlife crime come second only to
the drugs trade in terms of cash value. Every year as many as 5
million wild-caught birds, up to 30 thousand primates, 15 million
furs, 12 million orchids, 8 million cacti and countless other species
are sold on the international market; of the 350 million animals and
plants being traded world-wide every year, it is estimated that 25%
is done so illegally. There is also evidence of links with other
organised crimes: consignments of live snakes in the US have been
found to be stuffed with cocaine, and illegally-traded turtles have
been found on the same vessel as significant quantities of marijuana.
2. Operation 'Charm', launched by the Metropolitan Police in February
1995, resulted in the seizure of over 20,000 items in its first two
years, including a variety of animal body parts, plants and
manufactured products used in traditional Chinese medicines, for
which species like tigers, rhinos and bears have been used for
3. CITES was adopted in 1973; there are now 143 Parties, including
the UK. The purpose of the Convention is to regulate international
trade in wildlife (both fauna and flora) and wildlife products. The
Convention requires Parties to protect wild populations of endangered
species by banning international trade in some of them and
controlling trade in others. Over 800 animal and plant species are
banned from international trade and a further 25,000 are strictly
controlled by the Convention and by EU Regulations (which are
stricter than the Convention itself).
4. CITES is currently celebrating 25 years of operation. This was
marked in London at the beginning of March with a range of meetings,
including an EU workshop on wildlife law enforcement. The main
objectives of the workshop were to provide an opportunity for sharing
experience and expertise and to build links between enforcement
officers across Europe. The workshop focused mainly on European
legislation and issues, and also looked at the role of INTERPOL and
the World Customs Organisation. It ended with a special session on
5. The Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime (PAW) was set up
in November 1995 to improve UK enforcement of the controls on
wildlife. PAW is co-chaired by a senior Police officer and a senior
DETR official. It is supported by sub-groups looking at:
* DNA analysis and other forensic techniques and their
application to wildlife issues;
* options for strengthening wildlife enforcement legislation;
* arrangements for the annual Police Wildlife Liaison Officers'
* options for sharing and managing the data held by
PAW members (and others).
PAW has published Wildlife Crime: A Guide to Wildlife Law Enforcement
in the UK (now also available on the Internet); and two booklets on
DNA. It has commissioned a recommended blood-sampling kit for taking
a sample from a bird of prey; funded research into DNA blood-testing
techniques; and submitted proposals for strengthening wildlife
Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
6. The Montreal Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Substances which
Deplete the Ozone Layer was first signed in 1987. It protects the
ozone layer by controlling the production and consumption of
chemicals which destroy it. The Protocol has now been ratified by
over 160 countries, including the UK. The production of CFCs, the
main ozone-depleting substance (ODS), was phased out in 1995 within
the EU, but CFCs continue to be widely available.
7. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an NGO
which has compiled a dossier on CFC smuggling, between 1994 and 1996,
10,000 tonnes of illegal CFCs entered the US market via southern
Florida. Almost all of these CFCs first passed through Europe.
Current estimates of illegal trade within the EU are up to 6,000
tonnes of CFCs annually.
8. The provisions in the Protocol have been tightened a number of
times since 1987, most recently in September 1997 through an
amendment which requires Parties to the Protocol to have a licensing
system in place to control the import and export of ODS. Such a
system will allow the trade in ODS to be more effectively monitored.
The Protocol has led to substantial reductions in the production and
consumption of ODS over the last ten years.
Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of
Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal
9. The Basel Convention provides for a global system of controls on
transfrontier movements of hazardous wastes; it has been ratified by
113 countries and by the EU. The Convention is implemented in the EU
through the Waste Shipments Regulation.
10. In 1995, the 3rd Conference of the Parties agreed to an amendment
to the Convention banning the export of hazardous wastes from mainly
OECD countries to non-OECD countries. Exports for disposal were
banned immediately, whereas exports for recovery were to be banned by
the end of 1997. The amendment will only come into force after it has
been ratified by 65 Parties. To date, only 7 Parties, including the
UK, have ratified the amendment; the EU has, however, amended the
Waste Shipments Regulation to bring the ban into effect.
11. The 4th Conference of Parties in February this year adopted a
joint proposal by the EU and Chile to amend the Convention to
incorporate lists of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes. The new
lists give legal clarity to the scope of the exports ban, by defining
which wastes will be covered by it; this should add greatly to the
prospects for bringing the exports ban into force.
12. The G8 Summit in Birmingham is expected to discuss organised
crime, and the Environment Ministers' discussion on environmental
crime should be a valuable input to the Summit. There is some
evidence that organised crime turns to environmental crimes when
increased resources are diverted to more obvious areas, such as drugs
trafficking. There are also suspected links between environmental
crime and other organised crimes: according to Greenpeace, the
Silician Cosa Nostra are heavily involved in illegal dumping of
hazardous waste in Eastern European countries. There is recent
evidence that the Naples Mafia is behind illegal trade in endangered
parrots. And the EIA's investigations into Taifun (a German company
whose director was arrested last year for the unlicensed import of
CFCs and halons) apparently revealed links with another company
alleged to have interests in sanction busting and arms trading to
G8 Environment Ministerial
13. The international environmental crimes which Ministers were
discussing relate to contraventions of global, regional or bilateral
environmental agreements, or the national environmental regulations
which implement them.
14. Violation of environmental regulations and agreements is a
growing problem at both national and international levels. At the
national level, such offences may endanger human health (e.g.
improper use of pesticides or illegal disposal of hazardous wastes),
ecosystems (e.g. unauthorised water extraction), or sovereign
resources (e.g. theft of rare wild plants such as orchids or cacti
for propagation abroad). Internationally, environmental offences
(such as illegal trade in CFCs and illicit collection of rare animals
to smuggle abroad) undermine both the implementation of environmental
agreements, and the will to negotiate new treaties or strengthen
15. The G8 Environment Ministers focused on:
* violations of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs)
which contain trade-related measures: specifically, the CITES, the
Montreal Protocol, and the Basel Convention;
* mechanisms within these MEAs for establishing the extent of
such environmental crimes;
* ways of engaging public awareness about the threats posed by
such crimes, and the need for resources to be allocated to combat
* means of co-ordinating the efforts of national and
international agencies involved in combating such crimes;
* follow-up activities in G8 and beyond.
16. The inclusion of this topic in the agenda for the G8 Environment
Ministerial follows up last year's discussion at the Environment
Ministers' meeting in Miami. The UK attaches considerable importance
to the effective implementation of MEAs, and devotes significant
efforts to negotiating and agreeing MEAs; but MEAs can be rendered
impotent if they are not enforced. They can also lead to the creation
of black markets in banned substances. G8 countries present the best
markets for such crime, but also have the most sophisticated
enforcement systems and are best placed to tackle the problem.