EU Parliament Approves Updated Rules for Environmental Crimes

Chemical pollution in a body of water

(Credit: EU Parliament)

by | Mar 1, 2024

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The European Union Parliament has approved an updated list of environmentally-linked criminal offenses, including penalties for illegal timber trading, depletion of water resources, breaches of EU chemicals legislation, and pollution caused by ships.

Depending on the severity of environmental damages, individuals and company representatives may be subject to imprisonment of up to 10 years. Offenders will be required to reinstate the damages done and compensate for it, specifically through fines for companies of 3% to 5% of their yearly turnover, or $25 million to $43 million depending on the crime. The rules also include sanctions for qualified offenses, such as large-scale forest fires or widespread pollution of air, water, and soil.

The EU said that environmental crimes are the fourth largest criminal activity in the world. Therefore, along with the new rules are guidelines for how to raise awareness and reduce the prevalence of such crimes. Member states will reportedly organize special training for police, judges, and prosecutors to prepare them to combat environmental crime and prepare national strategies for the implementation of the new ruling.

“It is about time we fought cross-border crimes at the EU level with harmonized and dissuasive sanctions to prevent new environmental crimes,” said Antonius Manders, European Parliament member. “Under this agreement, polluters will pay. What is more, it is a major step in the right direction that any person in a leading position at a company responsible for polluting can be held liable as well as the business itself. With the introduction of a duty of care, there is nowhere else to hide behind permits or legislative loopholes.”

Law Among Additional Environmental Regulations from the EU

Already this year, the EU has passed a range of new regulations meant to protect the environment and strengthen efforts to restore past damages.

The EU recently passed a new nature restoration law, aiming to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030 and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. The law also included guidelines for restoring biodiversity on agricultural lands. At the end of January, the government also strengthened its rules on harmful fluorinated gasses and other ozone-depleting substances commonly used for cooling applications.

In terms of regulating corporate ESG claims, the EU Council and Parliament recently agreed on an ESG rating rule, requiring companies to validate ESG claims through an EU-authorized rating provider. As companies increasingly look to carbon removal as an emissions-reducing solution, the Council and Parliament have agreed to establish an EU-level certification framework to verify carbon removal and storage efforts.

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