On World Environment day, 5 June, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol have banded together with financial support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) to tackle all aspects of forest crime globally.
Project LEAF (Law Enforcement Assistance for Forests) will “ensure that the criminals responsible are brought to justice, no matter their location, movements or resources”, said David Higgins, Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme Manager.
Forest crime destroys biodiversity and contributes directly to climate change.
With more than a quarter of the world’s population (1.6 billion) depending on forests for their livelihoods, fuel, food and medicine, illegal logging is not restricted by national boundaries.
In addition, over 90% of those living below the $1-per-day poverty line are dependent – either fully or partly – on forests and their products for their livelihood.
LEAF will also provide support to enforcement agencies in countries with the biggest forest crime problems.
Project LEAF also aims to deliver a universal approach to tackling environmental crime. Cracking down on one country means that other crackdowns will also have to be put in place.
Illegal loggers have access to large international funding channels – in addition to using illegal land, sea and air networks to transport their goods and evade detection.
In an online statement to the press, Interpol added that Project LEAF is an “innovative, international response representing the first time that organisations of this stature have joined forces against this organised, sophisticated and transnational crime.”
This comes after a unanimous mandate given by Interpol at is 2010 General Assembly to expand its responses to global environmental crime.
Interpol also add that LEAF will conduct “ground-breaking, intelligence-led law enforcement operations against criminals involved in illegal logging and will work to further the skills, capabilities and capacities of law enforcement agencies to aid countries in sustainably managing their forest resources and contribute to the fight against climate change.”