By Zoe Tabary
LONDON, May 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From smuggled timber to trafficked eels, policing agencies pledged on Friday to ramp up their efforts to curb environmental crimes estimated to cost billions of dollars annually.
Europol, Europe's policing agency, and the Centre for Climate Crime Analysis (CCCA), a group of prosecutors and law enforcement officers that support the prosecution of "climate crimes" - signed a deal to cooperate more closely on criminal activities ranging from wildlife trafficking to illegal logging.
Environmental wrongdoing - the world's fourth most valuable criminal enterprise after drug smuggling, counterfeiting and human trafficking - finances conflicts, threatens sustainable development, and undermines local land rights, according to the U.N.
The value of stolen natural resources – including fish, timber, gold and other minerals – is estimated to be more than $200 billion per year, according to the U.N.
The cooperation between Europol and the CCCA is "a clear signal that law enforcement regards environmental crimes, especially those that have an impact on climate change, to be among the most serious and consequential crimes", said Reinhold Gallmetzer, chair of the CCCA's board of directors.
Law enforcement can "significantly contribute" to global efforts to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, he said in a statement.
The Paris pact set a goal of keeping the rise in average global temperatures to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, and ideally to 1.5 degrees.
A spokesman for Europol told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the combined efforts would provide the agency with "a fresh view to tackle environmental crimes" and enhance its support to national authorities on such issues.
Earlier this year Europol helped Spanish authorities seize 350kg of trafficked glass eels and more than 600 smuggled reptiles, he added. (Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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