Climate crimes are criminal activities that result in, or are associated with, the emission of significant amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG). The CCCA does not aim to criminalize GHG emissions per se. Most emissions are legal. However, a significant share of GHG emissions results from, or is associated with, conduct that violates existing criminal law. Emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation are one striking example: a World Bank study on forest crimes found that up to 90% of logging in key producer tropical countries is illegal and involves criminal activities. In addition, INTERPOL’s guide on carbon trading crime shows how fraud undermines the carbon emissions market, an essential mechanism for reducing GHG emissions.
Even when emissions are not directly based on criminal conduct, they may be associated with crimes - such as, corruption, trade ban violations, financial crimes or fraud - committed, for instance, in the context of extracting or trading timber or fossil fuels. Moreover, if there is a concrete causal link between a specific source of GHG emissions and a harmful consequence - such as serious injury to body or physical health or the destruction of property - this may constitute a crime both under national and international law.
Despite their prevalence and close connection to organized crime, climate crimes are under-reported to law enforcement agencies and the information made available by NGOs is often insufficient to trigger criminal investigations. Accordingly, climate crimes are under-prosecuted. The CCCA’s activities are intended to mitigate this shortcoming.