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Published in Journal of International Affairs, 66(1) 2012: 87-104.
Transnational environmental crime (TEC) is often not taken seriously within the broader policy and enforcement community. It is one of the fastest growing areas of cross-border criminal enterprise involving high profits and low risk for those involved in timber trafficking, wildlife smuggling, the black market in ozone-depleting substances, and the illegal trade in hazardous and toxic waste. TEC is increasingly characterized by commodity-specific smuggling networks, the intrusion of criminal groups involved in other forms of illegal trade and, in some cases, politically motivated organizations for whom this generates income to support other activities. But unlike other forms of transnational crime, there is no international treaty to prevent, suppress, and punish the kinds of trafficking and smuggling that constitute transnational environmental crime. The global regulatory and enforcement community has therefore developed innovative collaborative mechanisms to meet both the criminal and environmental challenges associated with this increasingly serious form of cross-border crime. Despite their successes, their efforts remain under-resourced. This article examines the challenges of TEC and efforts to respond to those challenges in the face of uncertain resources and limited awareness.