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The economic impact of environmental crime

The economic impact of environmental crime

A new report from the UN Environment Programme claims that  the monetary value of 'environmental crime' — logging, poaching, animal trafficking, illegal fishing, illegal mining, etc — is between US$70 billion and US$213 billion each year. 

If this upper figure is to be believed, then environmental crime is more valuable than estimated global official development assistance (US$135 billion) and the global revenue from the drug trade (US$200 billion).

 The immediate environmental impacts are of course shocking: 20,000 to 25,000 thousand African elephants are illegally killed each year; up to 90% of timber from some tropical countries is logged illegally.

But there are two other implications picked up by the UNEP which are worth highlighting. Firstly, what's making news is that some militant and terrorist groups, particularly in Africa, are sustained financially by environmental crime. Al Shabab in Somalia and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda are reportedly making cash from charcoal and ivory, respectively.

Second, and less reported, is the belief that if some of these activities were conducted legally and responsibly, much of the revenue could go directly into the economies of some of the poorest countries on earth.

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