Customs to stem pollution threats globally

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Air pollution has been described as the most difficult pollution to control because it does not know boundaries.

But the Director General of World Customs Organisation (WCO), Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, has vowed that Customs administrations globally would play a key role in stemming pollutions and the associated threats by preventing the illegal trade in waste, chemicals, ozone depleting substances and persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

The WCO Secretary General made this known in a speech to mark the World Environmental Day with a theme – “BeatAirPollution,” last week in Brussels, Belgium.

He noted that experts have predicted that by 2050 global climate change will pose serious dangers to humankind and there is a fair consensus that changing weather patterns and rising temperatures are linked to greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental degradation and diminished sustainability are associated with, amongst others, a loss in biodiversity, overexploitation of resources, changes in hydrological regimes, habitat alteration and loss, as well as pollution and associated climate change.

Air pollution, in particular, is difficult to address as it knows no boundaries.  Open-air landfills, the burning of waste, emissions from agricultural and industrial processes as well as other anthropogenic practices lead to increasing levels of greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere. Such emissions are believed to contribute towards global warming, which, according to the majority of climate scientists, lead to climate change.

Dr. Kunio Mikuriya said: “Across the globe, Customs administrations have a key role to play in stemming these threats by preventing the illegal trade in waste, chemicals, ozone depleting substances and persistent organic pollutants (POPs).”

He added: “As a result, the WCO and its Members stand united in reiterating the commitment to safeguard the environment by effectively implementing the relevant Customs procedures and targeted enforcement initiatives. 

”In addition to air pollution, environmental threats that Customs has to tackle include the illegal wildlife and timber trade, as well as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU). In the face of such a range of potential threats, partnerships are essential to successful mitigating actions.”

On efforts to combat pollutions by WCO, Mikuriya said ”Together with its Members and Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILOs), the WCO is coordinating global enforcement initiatives to stop illegal waste shipments, and is also working closely with its Green Customs Initiative partners at the Basel, Stockholm, and Rotterdam Conventions, as well as with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Minamata Convention, to raise awareness on the value of international joint efforts and cooperation in order to address these pressing environmental concerns.

”To continue making a positive impact, the WCO’s efforts in combating the illegal wildlife trade are supported by its International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) partners, namely the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the UNODC and the World Bank. This partnership of key actors represents a long-term united front against the illegal wildlife trade, targeting all aspects of the value chain at both global and regional levels.

”The WCO INAMA Project also continues to implement tailor-made activities to strengthen the capacity of targeted Customs administrations in Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia, thanks to the support of key development partners.

”Environmental issues can seem daunting to tackle, but by acting together, the global community can help protect the environment, and subsequently the health of both our planet and its inhabitants. The WCO and the international Customs community remain unwavering in their efforts to combat all forms of environmental crime.’

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