UN pushes for tough action against environmental criminals

Accra, 24 June 2014The United Nations wants to see more vigorous action taken against environmental criminals, and appeals for faster implementation of environmental policies and national legislation. These are some of the highlights from the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya which began sitting on Tuesday, June 23.

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The UNEA is the highest-level UN body ever to be convened on the environment and it is expected to deliberate on tightening environmental laws that regulate the legal impact facing those involved in foul environmental practices, such as illegal trading of wild animals and harmful disposal of hazardous waste.

About 1200 delegates from 160 countries including Ghana are attending this 5-day meeting. Many countries sign environmental agreements, but the implementation of new obligations is often slow. Frequently, countries fail to translate their commitments to environmental agreements into their national legislation.

During the meeting, high-level lawyers, Environment Ministers, government delegates and representatives of major groups and other stakeholders will gather to find methods to speed up the process of committing states to the environmental agreements, and find methods to advance the implementation of binding agreements into the national legislation.

One example is the Minamata Convention on Mercury, agreed upon by 140 states in January 2013, which includes a ban on new mercury mines and phase-out of existing ones. When 50 states ratify the treaty, it will enter into force. As yet, only the United States has ratified the treaty.

In the preparations to the UNEA conference, the world’s fastest-growing e-waste dumping site at Agbogbloshie, on the outskirts of Accra, has been mentioned as a shocking example of what hazardous waste can produce.