As efforts on environmental protection continue to occupy a large area on the agenda of policy makers, the number of legal texts put forward in this area is also increasing. In fact, the concept of “environmental law” covers a fairly wide framework, from international treaties signed between states for the protection of the environment to domestic waste regulations of local municipalities. Protection of the environment through criminal law as a sub-branch of environmental law, means that actions that harm the environment are regulated as crimes and those who commit such crimes face certain penalties. So, let’s first look at the environmental crimes Türkiye’s laws and then the European Union’s practice.
There are different laws regulating environmental crimes in Türkiye. Basically, polluting the soil, air and water in a way that harms the environment is considered a crime under the Turkish Penal Code. Likewise, in the Forest Law, actions such as cutting trees from the forest or the occupation of forest areas are regulated as crimes.
On the other hand, the European Commission has prepared a new directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law, considering that the current Union regulations are insufficient in terms of the protection of the environment by criminal law, and therefore the rate of committing environmental crimes increases by 5% to 7% each year.
The proposal establishes new criminal offences, including illegal timber trade, illegal ship recycling, serious breaches of EU chemicals legislation causing substantial damage, serious breaches related to dealing with fluorinated greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. At the same time, the proposal provides for the protection of those who report environmental crimes and provides for new types of sanctions, such as restricting access to public funds for those who commit environmental crimes.
If we want to protect the environment effectively and achieve our net-zero goals, the protection provided by our country’s environmental law regulations in terms of environmental protection needs to be increased.
You can access the Directive on the Protection of the Environment through Criminal Law, prepared by the European Commission, from here.