Environmental Crimes May Cost World Economy $258 Billion: Study

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An aerial photograph shows cleared forest in a huge palm oil concession area in West Kalimantan due to rampant illegal logging.

Photographer: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images

Environmental crimes are rising due to weak laws and enforcement, costing the global economy as much as a record $258 billion, about a quarter more than previously estimated, the United Nations Environment Program and Interpol said.

The groups released a study on Saturday, on the eve of World Environment Day, that said the proceeds from crimes ranging from illegal logging to the trafficking of hazardous waste and illicit gold mining are funding rebel groups and criminal syndicates. The scourge includes a rise in the poaching of elephants and rhinos, along with white-collar crimes, such as exploiting the carbon credit market.

UNEP and Interpol said environmental crimes now cost between $91 billion and $258 billion, compared with a 2014 estimate of $70 billion to $213 billion.

“The last decade has seen environmental crime rise by at least 5-7 percent per year,” growing two to three times faster than global economic output, they said in an e-mailed statement.

The agencies called for stronger actions such as legislation and sanctions, and for more investment, saying international agencies’ spending of $20 million to $30 million a year to combat the crimes is just a small fraction of the criminal proceeds. Their recommendations include disrupting overseas tax havens and boosting economic incentives to stop people “at the bottom of the environmental crime chain” from getting involved.

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