Environmental Crime - A Growing Problem
Environmental crime is a significant and increasingly lucrative business. Environmental crime is estimated to be worth approximately 91–258 billion USD annually (2016), a 26% increase from previous estimate in 2014 and is rising 5-7% annually which is 2–3 times the rate of the global economy. Illegal international trade in “environmentally-sensitive” commodities such as ozone depleting substances (ODS), toxic chemicals, hazardous wastes, and endangered species is an international problem with serious consequences. It is likely to threaten human health and the environment; contributes to species loss; results in revenue loss for governments; and undermines the success of international environmental agreements by infringing agreed rules and procedures.
The Need For Cooperation
Customs and border control officers constitute the front line of every country's defence against transboundary illegal trade. They are the first link in the “compliance and enforcement chain”, and without adequate capacity to prevent or detect illegal trade, the rest of the chain will be considerably less effective. Building the capacity of these officers is therefore vital. Training is a key component of capacity building, but can be time-consuming and expensive when delivered separately for the wide range of issues customs officers must cover. An effective solution is coordinated training – and this is where Green Customs comes in.
Answering The Call
UNEP’s Governing Council expressed concern over the increasing environmental damage caused by illegal traffic in endangered species and dangerous and harmful substances and products. It also recognised that continuous efforts must be undertaken by all countries and relevant organisations and agencies concerned with ensuring compliance and enforcement of relevant international agreements. The Green Customs Initiative is a partnership actively addressing these concerns. (Council Decision 21/27 on Compliance with and enforcement of multilateral environment agreements, February 2001)
The Benefits of Green Customs
- Increased knowledge about environmental issues, particularly those related to relevant MEAs and international conventions
- Enhanced skills required to enforce national environmental requirements set out on the basis of international commitments
- Facilitated access to information on the requirements of relevant MEAs and international conventions regarding the transboundary movement of different environmentally sensitive goods and substances
- Better recognition of the role of customs officers in environmental protection
- Increased detection of smugglers and illegally-traded commodities by national customs officers, and facilitation of legal trade
- Strengthened capacity for national compliance and enforcement of relevant MEAs and international conventions through monitoring of trade
- Increased opportunity for dialogue with regional trade partner countries on illegal trade issues. Sustained capacity building through integration of Green Customs into national customs training curricula
- Prevention of loss of revenue from tax and duty avoidance associated with smuggling Increased integration of environment into the security agenda
- Increased opportunity for synergies in implementation between relevant MEAs and international conventions.
- Shared training infrastructure and experience developed by the Secretariats
- Decrease in environmental crime, control of toxic chemicals and waste, better species protection– leading to a less polluted and more sustainable environment