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What UNGA 77 taught me about the future of our global fight against environmental crimes
January 31, 2023
It is no secret that climate change is resulting in destructive and deadly outcomes for ecosystems and communities across the planet. This summer alone, violent floods in Pakistan killed over 1,500 people and displaced over 30 million, more than three times the population of my home country, the United Arab Emirates.
The already devastating consequences of climate change, from changing weather patterns to rising sea levels, are exacerbated by environmental crimes. Ranging from animal trafficking and over-fishing to illegal logging and the dumping of hazardous waste, these crimes not only destroy the environment but also often help fund violent organized crimes, terrorists, and insurgent groups.
As environmental crimes continue to increase year-on-year, we created INTERPOL’s Environmental Security Programme (ENS) in 2010; to address the growing problem head-on, uniting law enforcement bodies from around the world to fight crimes taking place against our planet.
The intersection of climate diplomacy and law enforcement at UNGA
I was proud to represent INTERPOL at this year at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, where tackling climate change was a top item on the agenda—from making pledges to action previous commitments, it was clear that the world is united on this front. Several items resonated with me, in strong alignment with INTERPOL’s environmental protection efforts:
- Slowing and reversing deforestation. Led by UN Secretary-General António G. and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the informal Leader’s Roundtable on Climate Action pledged to deliver on the Paris Agreement and Glasgow COP26 pledges, including a commitment by leaders from more than 100 countries, with 85% of the world’s forests, to stop deforestation.
- The focus on combating loss of forest cover struck a chord; combating criminal deforestation efforts is a key pillar of INTERPOL’s environmental efforts. For example, Operation Thunder, which took place last year, saw the cooperation of 188 countries as well as the World Customs Organization (WCO) to halt transnational forestry crimes. It resulted in global arrests and investigations linked to the illegal trading, processing, exporting, and importing of wildlife and forestry products. The successful operation saw the seizure of more than 75,000kg of timber and 313 cubic meters of rosewood.
- Protecting & enhancing biodiversity. At a high-level biodiversity event at UNGA, numerous countries joined forces to announce pledges aimed at catalysing the financing of biodiversity conservation. Germany, a G20 member, announced an increase in international biodiversity funding to €1.5 billion per year, the largest annual yearly commitment of all industrialized countries to aid biodiversity conservation efforts.
- Policy, prevention, and protection will preserve biodiversity—law enforcement has a critical role to play in prevention and protection efforts. INTERPOL’s global police operations have brought many wildlife criminals to justice, dismantling the networks behind environmental crime, seizing tonnes of illicit wildlife products, and rescuing hundreds of endangered species being trafficked globally. Since 2012, we have coordinated over 50 wildlife crime operations.
Climate change is the issue of our time, and the talks at UNGA ultimately reflected this. The role for law enforcement to play in moving forward climate action is clear; we must not allow environmental crimes to further deplete our warming planet’s resources.
Not only must police act to protect the earth, but we must anticipate the new challenges that accompany a changing climate. With more catastrophic weather events, emergency personnel are strained; with rising temperatures, tactical operations must adjust; with new resource constraints, new criminal enterprises will emerge.
We are on a new frontier of policing, and only an INTERPOL that is modern and agile will be able to keep up. Along with the Executive Committee and the Secretary General, I am working every day to continue to move INTERPOL into the future, to better support our member countries and keep up with the challenges ahead.
Ultimately, our goal is to make the planet a safe and habitable place for all.
Learn more about my role at INTERPOL here.
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