European Union: ship pollution added to list of environmental crimes

Editorial Team
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  • The European Parliament expanded the scope of environmental crimes on February 27, including pollution from ships among offenses deemed as “qualified” for potentially constituting “ecocide”
  • Harmonized sanctions across the EU are now outlined, indicating a unified approach towards tackling environmental offenses and addressing concerns related to ecological damage

The European Parliament, as per Actu-Transport-Logistique, has launched an investigation on MEPs, meeting in Strasbourg, largely validating the agreement already reached on this regulation between the negotiators of the Parliament and the member states.

Among the new offenses included are the importation and use of mercury and fluorinated greenhouse gasses, the importation of invasive species, and the illegal depletion of water resources.

Furthermore, if it does not directly refer to “ecocide”, the legislation introduces a so-called “qualified” offense aimed at causing the destruction of an ecosystem, such as generalized pollution or large-scale forest fires. .

“ With this new text, the EU is adopting one of the most ambitious legislations in the world to fight more effectively against environmental crimes and better protect individuals who often suffer from these attacks ,” welcomed Marie Toussaint, vice-president of the Greens group. “It recognizes many new environmental offenses, and in particular a ‘qualified offense’ for the most serious crimes against the environment, commonly known as ecocides .”

Environmental crime: A New Page in The History of Europe

According to Marie Toussaint, a French lawyer and MEP for the Greens/European Free Alliance group, the EU is “adopting one of the most ambitious legislation in the world.”

“The new directive opens a new page in the history of Europe, protecting against those who harm ecosystems and, through them, human health. It means putting an end to environmental impunity in Europe, which is crucial and urgent,” she says.

According to Toussaint, current EU and national legislations are not dissuading offenders from committing environmental crimes, because offences are too limited and sanctions very low.

“Environmental crimes are growing two to three times faster than the global economy and have in a few years become the fourth largest criminal sector in the world,” she says.

Euronews reported that Environmental crimes still occur in Europe. In its report on the fight against environmental crime in Europe, the European Environmental Bureau cites numerous examples of environmental crimes that were still going unpunished because they were not included in the old directive.

These include illegal fishing of bluefin tuna, agro-industrial pollution in protected areas, as well as illegal hunting practices and carbon market fraud.

Furthermore courthousenews also reported that, According to environmental law expert at Copenhagen University Ana Stella Ebbersmeyer, the new EU directive is powerful because it sets a strong juridical precedent for better protecting the environment.

She noted that it could “inspire other countries outside the EU to implement stricter rules for environmental conduct,” but added that, somewhat surprisingly, climate emissions are absent in the new list of offenses.

“It is very difficult to create criminal laws against climate change and the atmospheric damage caused by greenhouse gasses, because it happens so gradually. The challenge is to pick a specific offender and event,” Ebbersmeyer said.

“The EU itself has limited options to pursue and handle criminal court cases,” she said.

The directive still needs final approval from EU’s state leaders in March before it enters into force. Member states have two years to implement the rules.

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