DUBAI - Dr. Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, outlined the UNODC's multifaceted approach to combating climate-related crimes.

She emphasised the importance of raising awareness about these crimes, reviewing and aligning legislation with international commitments, and pursuing legal action through trials. Dr. Wali specifically highlighted the UNODC's focus on environmental crimes, underscoring the organisation's dedication to protecting the planet and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Dr. Ghada Wali shed light on climate-related crimes, explaining in statements to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), specifically highlighting deforestation, ocean pollution, and water pollution caused by mercury-based gold mining. She emphasised the interconnectedness of these crimes, noting that water pollution, for instance, is exacerbated by hazardous waste disposal, particularly plastic materials.

She said that the illicit cultivation of cocaine in the Amazon rainforests of Latin America and other forests around the world poses a severe threat to the environment. “This criminal activity not only decimates precious ecosystems but also fuels the smuggling of prohibited timber, rare plants, and animal parts, often destined for trafficking or alternative medicine markets.”

Wali said, "These crimes collectively impact biodiversity, climate, and carbon dioxide absorption," noting that the role of the United Nations Office specialises in raising awareness of these crimes and their relationship with other crimes like drug trafficking and human trafficking.

She explained that the UN Office operates in more than 140 countries, highlighting that in 2022, efforts were directed toward crimes affecting the environment in 40 countries. Additionally, the office issued strategies for Africa and Latin America.

She shed light on the UNODC's ongoing efforts to tackle environmental crimes. She emphasised the organisation's role in collaborating with specialised agencies in various countries to intercept illicit activities, such as the confiscation of tons of ivory and smuggled timber, as well as the apprehension of organised gangs involved in plastic waste trafficking.

Dr. Wali also underscored the UNODC's focus on reviewing and aligning legislation with international environmental commitments. This crucial step ensures that national laws effectively address contemporary environmental crimes and align with global standards.

To further strengthen the fight against environmental crimes, the UN Office, in collaboration with the UAE's Ministry of Interior, launched new initiatives during COP28. These initiatives focus on fostering collaboration, providing training, and offering technical support to law enforcement agencies. This enhanced cooperation aims to empower law enforcement personnel to effectively counter crimes committed against the environment.

Dr. Ghada Wali highlighted the organisation's comprehensive initiative to combat environmental crimes. This multi-faceted approach encompasses raising awareness among law enforcement personnel, refining legal frameworks, training investigators, and emphasising deterrence.

The initiative's origins can be traced back to the Government Summit held in Dubai last February. Since then, working groups have diligently crafted an action plan and evaluated the specific needs of various countries. This tailored approach ensures that assistance aligns with the unique challenges faced by each nation.

Dr. Wali emphasised the importance of assessing needs and identifying shortcomings within law enforcement agencies. Based on this evaluation, tailored programmes will be developed to enhance the skills and proficiency of law enforcement personnel. These programmes will incorporate evidence-based guidance and training materials adapted to the specific contexts of different countries.

The UNODC's message to the international community echoes the urgent need for collective action to address climate change. Dr. Wali underscored the responsibility of major industrial nations, significant contributors to global emissions, to provide support in the form of technology and financing to less fortunate countries that play a smaller role in pollution.

Despite their relatively lower contribution to pollution, these less fortunate nations often bear the brunt of climate change's adverse effects, facing challenges such as desertification, rising sea levels, and other disruptions that threaten livelihoods and trigger displacement. To effectively address these issues, international cooperation, financial assistance, and technology transfer are paramount.