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S&Ds ensure stricter sanctions for those guilty of environmental crimes


27 Feb 2024


Climate & Environment

Today, members of the European Parliament voted on stricter rules to protect the environment through criminal law. According to EU estimates, environmental crimes are among the most profitable international crimes, with a yearly turnover of more than €200 billion and serious consequences on human health and the environment. 

The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament fought for new rules that will effectively prevent environmental damage, expand the list of environmental crimes, introduce new sanctions, and facilitate access to justice. 

Under the leadership of the S&Ds, we enshrined a qualified offence for the gravest crimes comparable to ecocide with corresponding severe penalties, meaning offences with the most serious consequences to the environment can be punished more severely. Furthermore, the fact that offenders had an authorisation to carry out an activity will not impede them from being prosecuted, such as when the authorisation was obtained fraudulently, by corruption, extortion or coercion, but also when the authorisation was a manifest breach of a substantive legal requirement.

Franco Roberti, S&D negotiator for the protection of the environment through criminal law, said:

“Today’s vote is a victory for all of us! Thanks to efforts of the S&Ds, the newly revised Environmental Crime Directive will discourage companies from profiting at the expense of the planet.

“Widespread pollution, industrial accidents with severe effects to the environment, or large scale forest fires are among the offences with the gravest environmental consequences. As of now, these offences can be punished more severely in member states when they cause destruction or widespread and substantial, irreversible or long-lasting damage to an ecosystem, a habitat or to the quality of air, soil or water. 

“We are also creating new powerful legal tools for those defending the environment. The Socialists and Democrats have guaranteed the protection of whistle-blowers and have greatly contributed to strengthening the access to justice. With the new regulation, persons affected, or likely to be affected, by environmental offences have appropriate procedural rights to participate in proceedings concerning environmental crimes, and the information on the progress of the proceedings will be shared with the public concerned.”

Next steps

Once its entry into force, member states will have 24 months to transpose the new rules into national law.


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