environmental crime funds conflicts, hurts growth: U.N.
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[June 25, 2014]
OSLO (Reuters) - Surging
environmental crime, from illegal logging to elephant poaching, is worth
up to $213 billion a year and is helping to fund armed conflicts while
cutting economic growth, a U.N. and Interpol report said on Tuesday.
The study, released during a U.N. meeting of environment ministers
in Nairobi, called for tougher action to prevent crimes such as
illegal logging, fishing, mining, dumping of toxic waste and trade
in rare animals and plants.
"Many criminal networks are making phenomenal profits from
environmental crime," Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations
Environment Program, told Reuters. "It is a financing machine."
An "enormous increase" in environmental crime in recent years is
helping to fund militias and insurgents while depriving developing
nations of billions of dollars in revenues to help lift citizens
from poverty, he said.
The study estimated that environmental crime was worth between $70
billion and $213 billion a year. By comparison, global development
aid to poor nations totals $135 billion.
It estimated, for instance, that illicit trade in charcoal in
Africa, where wood is a main source of energy, was worth $1.9
billion a year. Islamist al Shabaab insurgents in Somalia made
millions of dollars by taxing charcoal at ports and roadblocks.
And rising wealth in China and other Asian nations is driving demand
for everything from ivory to rhino horn, seen as status symbols by a
rapidly growing middle class.
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The report estimated that about 20,000 to 25,000 elephants were
killed in Africa every year, out of a total population of up to
about 650,000. Militias in Democratic Republic of Congo and the
Central African Republic exploited ivory to raise cash.
The report called for stronger environmental laws and enforcement.
Among some successes, the report cited a drop in deforestation in
Brazil's Amazon to its lowest rate in 2012 since monitoring began in
1988 because of satellite imaging and targeted police operations.
(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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