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European Climate Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article4 May 2022European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

Member States unite to combat environmental crime 

The European Network of Prosecutors for the Environment (ENPE) set out to tackle environmental crime in Europe. The LIFE-ENPE project has bolstered this network, ensuring it can continue growing and flourishing. 

LIFE14 GIE/UK/000043
Illegal waste disposal
LIFE14 GIE/UK/000043/Irish EPA. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.

Highly profitable and difficult to detect, environmental crime is to blame for much biodiversity loss and environmental pollution worldwide. These crimes range from wildlife killing and smuggling to illegal waste disposal. Interpol and the United Nations Environment Programme estimate the cost of international environmental crime to be around €188 billion per year. 

The LIFE-ENPE project built a self-sustaining network of environmental prosecutors, improved the sharing of information on environmental crime, and enhanced capacity and consistency for combating transnational waste, wildlife and air pollution crimes. 

To reach these objectives, the team established ENPE as an international non-profit association. They grew the ENPE network from 12 to 48 different organisations and individuals from 31 countries.  

The partners published a baseline report on environmental crime and prosecution in Europe and shared it with 41 countries. They also set up the ENPE website with an environmental crimes case law database. Four annual conferences attended by around 550 delegates took place. 

Four specialist working groups on wildlife crime, air pollution, waste crime and a cross-cutting theme of sanctioning and judicial practice were set up. Their training materials were shared with over 1 000 specialists across Europe. Enforcement practitioners and policymakers highly appreciate the informative newsletters issued by ENPE.  

The ENPE team also contributed to key EU policy initiatives to tackle environmental crime, such as the Action Plan on environmental compliance and governance, the recent Environmental Crime Directive proposal, and the Waste Shipment Regulation revision. 

The project has resulted in several positive impacts, including: 

  • More effective, successful prosecutions and judgements – increased deterrence 
  • Increased awareness of the effects of crime on the environment 
  • Better trained judges and prosecutors 
  • Harmonised understanding of critical environmental law concepts across Member States 
  • Greater awareness of barriers to the efficient and effective prosecution of environmental crime 
  • Closer cooperation and collaboration between prosecutors across borders 
  • Global networking – Chinese, Latin American and North American networks links 

ENPE continues to grow its membership in Europe and beyond. It is also extending its reach to global environmental initiatives like the recent COP26 conference in Glasgow. In 2018, ENPE became a member of the Environmental Compliance and Governance Forum. Since then, the team has been contributing to the implementation of actions under the Action Plan on environmental compliance and governance related to enhancing capacities to combat environmental crime.  

The project contributes to EU environmental policies like the European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.