Crimes that affect the environment worsen climate change and biodiversity loss, says UNODC at UN Climate Change Conference – World

Crimes that affect the environment worsen climate change and ...  ReliefWeb

Crimes that affect the environment worsen climate change and biodiversity loss, says UNODC at UN Climate Change Conference – World

Addressing Crimes that Affect the Environment: Key to Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) emphasized the importance of addressing crimes that affect the environment in mitigating and adapting to climate change during the 28th session of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (COP 28).

Time is Running Out

Ghada Waly, Executive Director of UNODC, stated, “Time is running out to avert climate catastrophe, prevent biodiversity loss, and end the suffocation of our planet caused by pollution and illegal waste disposal.” Waly highlighted that crimes that affect the environment are serious crimes that weaken the planet’s resilience, threaten species with extinction, contaminate vital water resources, and undermine the rule of law and sustainable development. She urged governments and stakeholders to take concrete action at COP28, including integrating justice responses into the climate agenda, to preserve our planet and its fragile ecosystems.

Link between Biodiversity and Climate Change

Biodiversity and climate change are closely linked. Forests and other terrestrial and marine ecosystems play a crucial role in combatting climate change by capturing and storing carbon from the atmosphere.

Contributing to Ecosystem Degradation

UNODC officials warned that crimes that affect the environment, such as illegal deforestation, marine pollution, wildlife trafficking, and crimes in the fisheries, waste, and mining sectors, are contributing to rapid ecosystem degradation. These illegal activities hinder the ability of natural ecosystems to mitigate or adapt to climate change, leading to a decline in biodiversity and the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

Impact of Illegal Waste Disposal

Crimes like illegal waste trafficking or unmanaged waste further degrade the environment by causing waste to be dumped in public ecosystems, illicit landfills, or open-air incineration sites. Failing to tackle these crimes and safely manage such waste contributes to rising greenhouse gas emissions, including methane and other pollutants, estimated to account for about three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Implementing environmentally-sound waste management practices and promoting the circular economy can effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ravaging Landscapes through Illegal Mining

Illegal mining, including for minerals required for the transition to ‘green’ energy like lithium, nickel, cobalt, copper, and rare earth elements, is ravaging landscapes, degrading natural habitats, and disrupting vital carbon sinks. The global demand for these materials is fueling a rise in corruption and organized crime due to weak law enforcement capacities, poor compliance measures, and vulnerabilities across supply chains.

Integrating Measures against Environmental Crimes

Alan Cole, Chief of UNODC’s Border Management Branch, highlighted the importance of integrating measures against crimes that affect the environment in support of climate action during the Global Stocktake at COP28. He emphasized the need for justice systems to respond to these crimes in ways that align with climate, biodiversity, and circular economy agendas.

UNODC’s Commitment

UNODC is committed to supporting Member States in strengthening their responses against crimes that affect the environment. This support includes providing legislative assistance, building judicial and law enforcement capacities, and facilitating international cooperation. UNODC’s efforts are guided by the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the UN Convention against Corruption, for which UNODC serves as the Secretariat.

Law Enforcement Community’s Perspective

The perspectives of the global law enforcement community will be brought into the climate change dialogue at COP28 through the International Initiative of Law Enforcement for Climate (I2LEC). This initiative was launched by the Ministry of Interior of the United Arab Emirates with UNODC in Dubai earlier this year.

About COP28

The Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC is the world’s largest annual gathering on climate action. It brings together Heads of State, ministers, negotiators, climate activists, mayors, civil society representatives, and CEOs to seek renewed solidarity between countries in delivering on the landmark Paris Agreement.

Learn More

Learn more about UNODC’s participation in COP28 here.

For more information on the impact of crimes that affect the environment on climate change, click here.

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Contact Information


Brian Hansford

Chief of Advocacy Section


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