Direct and indirect targeting of illegal GHG emitting conduct
Law enforcement authorities are already equipped with the necessary legal tools to prosecute climate crimes effectively. Many legal systems punish environmental crimes such as illegal deforestation or pollution, which may allow direct prosecution of GHG emitting activities. Prosecutors may also examine the broader context in which GHG emissions are released and target climate crimes indirectly by focussing on criminal conduct that is commonly associated with climate crimes because it facilitates the GHG emitting conduct. These associated crimes include corruption, financial crimes, tax evasion, fraud, violations of trade bans, or forgery of public documents.
Addressing complex facts indirectly through associated criminal conduct is a common law enforcement practice and is sometimes referred to as the Al Capone approach, named after the infamous Chicago gangster who was ultimately prosecuted for tax evasion.
Targeting associated crimes offers several practical advantages compared to the direct prosecution of GHG emitting activities: This approach may use jurisdiction in countries other than those where the emissions are released, by relying on criminal conduct taking place in third countries or involving nationals of third countries. Moreover, investigating and prosecuting associated crimes is simpler as their factual basis is often narrower. Associated crimes are also more common and less technical, so authorities have more expertise and resources to pursue them. Finally, the penalties for associated crimes may be higher, thus have a greater deterrent impact.