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World Environment Day 2024 - Customs' Vigilance is key in Protecting Earth's Ecosystems

05 июня 2024

The World Customs Organization (WCO) commemorates World Environment Day on 5 June 2024 by emphasizing the critical role Customs plays in environmental conservation.

Joining the United Nations’ call for action under the theme “Land Restoration, Desertification and Drought Resilience,” the WCO recognizes, and reminds its Members of, the need to prioritize pressing environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and illicit trade in flora and fauna.

From combating wildlife trafficking to intercepting illegal shipments of hazardous substances, Customs stands at the forefront in the fight against environmental crimes through enforcing Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are potent greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.

Effective enforcement of MEAs requires that Customs administrations understand the terms of the agreements and have the legal and technical capacity to enforce them. Customs should also make efficient use of risk management techniques, while taking advantage of national, regional, and global information networks. These networks facilitate the dissemination of information, risk data, and intelligence.

WCO Secretary General Ian Saunders emphasized the importance of Customs to environmental protection. “It is imperative for Customs administrations to transform their commitments to combating environmental risks and crimes into tangible actions. At borders, Customs administrations must strategically recognize and operationally address these critical issues. The WCO Secretariat remains available to support those administrations wishing to strengthen their enforcement capacities in this domain”. He added, “Through vigilance and collaborative efforts, Customs can significantly contribute to safeguarding Earth’s ecosystems and promoting sustainable development.”

To understand the provisions of international agreements, the procedures they establish and the documentation they require, Customs has at its disposal an array of training materials developed by the WCO and its international partners, including the various Secretariats of the MEAs. In addition, several non-governmental organizations make valuable contributions to international enforcement initiatives.

A number of enforcement operations have been organized, such as Operation DEMETER, which focuses on combating the illegal shipments of hazardous waste, ozone depleting substances, and hydrofluorocarbons, and Operation THUNDER, which tackles the trafficking of protected species of fauna, flora, and timber. These operations provide Customs and its environmental protection and law enforcement partners with a unique opportunity to assess, improve, and coordinate their approaches to fighting environmental crimes.

The Customs community and its partners have accomplished a great deal to combat environmental crime and protect natural heritage. The WCO is committed to keeping environmental crime on its working agenda, which will continue to be an integral part of its practical enforcement efforts in the future.