The European Union has made environmental crime, including the illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances, a priority in its organised crime plan from 2021 to 2025.

According to estimates from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Interpol, annual losses related to environmental crime ranges from $US 91 to 258 billion.

This makes environmental crime the fourth largest criminal activity in the world after drugs trafficking, human trafficking, and counterfeiting and it is growing at an  annual rate of between five and seven per cent

The European Commission has announced a proposal to increase fines and introduce a maximum term of imprisonment of at least six years for breaches of the F-gas regulations.

The new proposals seek to replace and update the environmental criminal law Directive 2008/99/EC by setting common minimum measures for European member states in the prosecution of environmental crimes.

A review of the current regulatory framework found conviction rates low as well as considerable enforcement gaps.

It said sanction levels imposed were too low to be dissuasive and  cross-border cooperation did not take place in a “systematic manner”.

The biggest problem in the EU is the black market trade in illegal refrigerant.

Environmental groups have also been critical of inconsistent and unharmonised enforcement of the F-gas regulation.

The legislative proposal will now be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council.


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