World Environment Day

08 June 2010

World Environment Day

Brussels, 5 June 2010

Press Release

In celebrating World Environment Day 2010, the World Customs Organization (WCO) takes this opportunity to re-affirm the commitment of Customs administrations across the globe to protecting the environment.

"National boundaries are the frontline in the fight against trans-border environmental crime and coordinated efforts by Customs administrations and their partners at borders is critical to combat this illicit trade which can have a devastating impact on the planet, on people and even on the survival of some species," said WCO Secretary General, Kunio Mikuriya.

This year's World Environment Day launches the theme “Many Species. One Planet. One Future” and Customs authorities have already been active in undertaking a number of environment protection operations, activities and awareness-raising campaigns in the lead up to this special day on the international environment calendar. Protecting the world's natural heritage is a priority for the global Customs community and Customs officials have been proud to join global endeavours aimed at preserving the earth and its biodiversity.

Ninety Customs administrations participated in a global one-day intensive CITES control operation in 2009 which resulted in seizures totalling 4,630 specimens of over 80 species of wildlife protected by the CITES Convention. Customs seizures in only several countries led to the confiscation of over 23 tons of ivory – a record high. This example of Customs' determination to stop traffickers was followed by the seizure of 10 rhinoceros horns by Irish Customs in January 2010 and the interception of 10 rhinoceros horns by Belgium Customs officers at Brussels airport in May 2010. Many other Customs successes have been recorded.

Operation Demeter between March and May 2009 set its sights on the illegal trade in hazardous waste when Customs administrations from 64 countries made 86 seizures totalling 45,000 tons and over 1,800 pieces of hazardous waste, including waste electronic and electrical equipment, household waste and end-of-life vehicles and their parts, as well as used vehicle batteries. Hazardous waste can have damaging long-term consequences and can be lethal, particularly if it poisons agricultural land and seeps into a country's drinking water system.

The illegal trade in ozone depleting substances (ODS) is another area currently being tackled by the international Customs community in cooperation with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in response to the complete phase out and ban of some forms of harmful ODS. Joint efforts in this regard will not only continue but also be strengthened to ensure that criminals who trade in these goods find it more difficult to avoid official detection.

Secretary General Mikuriya rounded off by saying, "The WCO has established meaningful partnerships with other international organizations to support Customs' efforts to protect endangered wildlife, reduce biodiversity losses, and ensure that future generations inherit a planet with a rich and varied natural heritage."

As part of the way forward, the WCO is now joining hands with its partners in the CITES Secretariat, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL, and the World Bank to hammer out an international consortium that will introduce a new era to the fight against wildlife crime in a more formidable and coordinated manner."