Crime which endangers wildlife and damages the environment requires international co-operation at all levels, Michael Meacher said today in a message to a Commonwealth workshop on environmental crime.
The global value of trade in endangered wildlife - including tigers and elephant ivory, hazardous waste and substances which deplete the ozone layer - is thought to be over US $20 billion a year, much of it smuggled illegally and harmful the environment. The annual profits for smuggling endangered wildlife alone have been estimated as US $6 billion.
The UK has recognised that environmental crime is a problem that must be tackled at all levels from the local to the international. The UK led an information-sharing project with other G8 countries to establish the level of organised criminal involvement in environmental crime. As a result, in March this year the G8 Lyon Group on Trans-national Organised Crime agreed to take forward a project to share information and experience and thus to target organised traffickers in illegal environmental goods.
Following commitments made at the G8 Environment Ministers meeting in Germany this year, and in the UK the year before, the DETR has funded a regional environmental crime workshop in Botswana. The workshop has been organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat with assistance from the DETR and an expert from the UK Environment Agency. This week's event in Botswana, inspired and financed by the UK, has brought together prosecutors and enforcement agencies from African Commonwealth countries in a workshop to share ideas, expertise and best practice in the fight against environmental crime.Participants from all the countries involved will be taking part in mock 'trials' focused on a variety of allegations of international environment crime.
Mr Meacher said: "The UK has long considered international environmental crime to be a priority for action. The fight against environmental crime must be backed up by effective enforcement and prosecution. It demands communication and co-operation nationally, regionally and internationally. And it requires a multidisciplinary approach, where all the players in each country - police, enforcement agents, customs, legal staff and policy advisers - are brought together domestically and an approach where such national networks are brought together in the international arena. I am particularly pleased that we have been able to work with the Commonwealth Secretariat to run this workshop".
At Leeds Castle in April 1998 under the UK Presidency, G8 Environment Ministers committed themselves to the improved enforcement of Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs). These commitments were reiterated after the Summit in Schwerin in March 1999. One of the key commitments was to assist developing countries on enforcement issues.
The UK has provided £100,000 to fund two environmental crime workshops looking at the use of criminal law in the enforcement of environmental crime. The first workshop took place in Botswana form 8-12 November and the second will be held in the Caribbean in the new year.