EU agrees new environmental crime rules

21st November 2023


Environmental crimes could result in prison sentences of up to 10 years and company fines of 5% of turnover under a proposed EU law agreed by the European parliament and council.

The new directive will double the number of environmental offences that currently exist under EU criminal law from nine to 18, including the import of invasive species, the illegal depletion of water resources, and pollution caused by ships.

Negotiators also agreed on stricter sanctions for so-called ‘qualified offences’, such as widespread pollution or large-scale forest fires comparable to ecocide.

These acts could result in an eight-year prison sentence, while intentional offences causing death to any person could carry a 10-year jail term.

For the most serious offences, companies could face a fine of at least 5% of their global turnover, or €40m (£35m). All other offences could result in fine of 3% of turnover, or €24m.

“We successfully negotiated a zero-tolerance position on environmental crimes that have huge consequences for human health and the environment,” said European parliament rapporteur Antonius Manders.

“There is no more hiding behind permits or legislative loopholes: this law is future-proof, meaning that the list of offences will be kept up to date.

"If you pollute, you will pay for your crimes; not only criminal companies paying fines, but also jail time for representatives of polluting companies."

Environmental crime is the fourth-largest criminal activity in the world and is considered one of the main sources of income for organised crime, alongside drugs, weapons and human trafficking.

Following the latest negotiations, people reporting offences will be provided with support, and judges, prosecutors, police and other judicial staff will undergo specialised regular training, while member states will organise awareness-raising campaigns to reduce environmental crime.

In cross-border cases, national authorities will be required to cooperate among themselves and with other competent bodies, such as Eurojust, Europol or the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Member states will also be required to prepare national strategies on combatting environmental crime and collect related statistical data, while the European commission will have to regularly update the list of criminal offences.

“Prevention is key, and that is why we highlighted the need for more resources, research, training and awareness-raising campaigns targeting both the public and private sector,” Manders continued.

“It is crucial that we fight these cross-border crimes at EU level with harmonised, dissuasive, and effective sanctions to prevent new environmental crimes.”

The agreed draft law requires formal approval by the Legal Affairs Committee and the European parliament as a whole, as well as by the council, before it can enter into force.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

UK government accused of attempting to relax sewage rules ‘through the backdoor’

Campaign group Wild Justice has accused the UK government of trying to relax pollution rules for housebuilders “through the backdoor”.

14th February 2024

Read more

Stella Consonni reports on the existing legal framework and the main challenges

15th January 2024

Read more

David Burrows on the stolen concept of a circular economy, and how reduction must be at the heart of product design

30th November 2023

Read more

Zero Waste Scotland is focused on closing the energy sector’s circularity gap. Kenny Taylor reports on progress so far

28th November 2023

Read more

The IEMA Circular Economy Network Steering Group has published a guide on how to integrate circular strategies into your business model.

24th November 2023

Read more

Ellen Williams on the ecosystem approach to sustainably managing economies

14th November 2023

Read more

Lorraine Dallmeier unmasks the environmental impact of the cosmetics industry

28th September 2023

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close