The definition of Environmental Crime isn’t universally agreed but it’s understood as a collective term for crimes that harm the environment. UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) have pledge to tackle this. But what is the reality of environmental crime? Global criminal activity is usually focused on human interaction, the effects on people or a capitalistic nature.

This would include criminal activity such as human and drug trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting, terrorism, murder, rape, abduction, paedophilia etc. but most forget the natural environment.

The Economic Costs

Environmental crime in general is estimated at 91-258 billion USD per year. This is an increase by 26% in 2016 from 2014. The estimates show that environmental crime is rising at least 5-7% per year, this is 2-3 times faster than the global economy.

The illegal wildlife trade is estimated at 7-23 billion USD. Forestry crimes, this includes corporate crimes and illegal logging, accounts for approx. 51-152 billion USD. Illegal fisheries account for an estimated 11-24 billion USD, illegal mining around 12-48 billion USD and waste accounts for 10-12 billion USD, per year.

Some estimates place environmental crime the fourth largest criminal activity in the world. The three above are drug trafficking (344 billion USD), counterfeit crimes (288 billion USD) and human trafficking (157 billion USD).

With global finances becoming increasingly strained, most nations are vast sums of money through environmental crime.

The statistics underline a major issue most nations face that has very little attention from society. Some registered trade statistics, seizures and reported incidents estimate the annual rise of environmental crime ranges from at least 5-7% with the highest examples being 21-28% and this compares to the global GDP growth rate ca.

of 2.4%.

The Foundation of Environmental Sustainability

More can be made of the economic issues of environmental crime. But this detracts from the global problem. The environment provides a foundation of sustainability and environmental crimes are unlike any other. This is down to the additional cost; the impact on the environment and the cost to future generations.

The environment provides a foundation for sustainable development of health, food security and economies. Ecosystems provide clean water, air and a supply of food which impacts physical and mental wellbeing. Resources from nature also provide jobs, livelihoods, and revenue streams for governments. These can be used for health care, education, development, and sustainable business models.

Foundations of environmental sustainability are under threat through the expansion of criminal activity. The speed of which it is expanding is endangering wildlife populations. However, the effect of is also endangering entire ecosystems, sustainable livelihoods, and government revenue streams.

Issues that effect this foundation include deforestation, dumping of chemicals and illegal fisheries.

Which causes loss of ecosystem services such as clean air and water, extreme weather mitigation, food security and health & wellbeing. Surveys suggest a quarter of the worlds elephants have been lost in a decade. Due to exportation of ivory and illegal hunting.

The Importance of Environmental Security

The role of the environment is recognised across the globe and there have been seventeen developmental goals agreed and adopted in 2015. The UN play a leading role in setting these goals and understand its importance. Environmental crime is a subject that attracts little interest.

The importance of environmental security is understated, with an increase in transnational crimes that include hazardous and chemical products, forest products, illegal animal trafficking, minerals, illegally extracted gold and fraudulent medicines. There are many more activities that are defined as environmental crime, which need to be tackled before the damage done cannot be reversed.