23 August 2008 MONTREAL -- Organized criminals in Canada are going green, turning to environmental crime as a lucrative way of raising money.
A report released yesterday by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada said crime networks have developed underground markets for electronic waste and scarce natural resources.
The survey of organized crime, compiled from police reports across Canada, indicates criminals are using such markets to complement traditional revenue sources, such as narcotics.
"Criminal networks can profit by collecting e-waste in developed countries such as Canada and selling it to 'recyclers' in developing nations," the CISC report reads.
"This practice is a violation of both Canadian and international law."
The CISC report fails to place a dollar figure on the illegal trafficking and disposal of computers, televisions and cellphones.
But it warns such activity will peak starting next year as new digital broadcast norms come into effect in Canada and the U,S., rendering millions of TVs obsolete.
"One of the reasons organized crime has been as successful as it is, is that they're very adaptable and its not like they've given up any of their traditional markets," said RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, who chairs CISC.
The UN Environment Program estimates between 20 million and 50 million tons of e-waste is generated worldwide every year.
On top of financing criminal networks, authorities are concerned about how black-market recyclers handle defunct electronics.
"We're realizing that in terms of sales of laptops and electronic devices to organized crime there is often damage to the environment and it's a national concern," said Robert Chartrand, who heads Criminal Intelligence Service Quebec.
Often extremely toxic, much of Canada's e-waste ends up in Asia and Africa, where it is mined for parts.
But the environmental threat represented by organized crime also extends to the country's natural resources. CISC notes that criminals have taken up illegal poaching and resource exploitation.
"Canadian forests are vulnerable to illegal harvesting due to their relative abundance, isolation, and the large number of logging access roads," the report says.
Canada's vast wilderness is an easy target for groups looking to take advantage of skyrocketing prices for animals.
"The illegal trade in wildlife can be as profitable as dealing in narcotics," a recent UN report said.
Environment crime is a priority for the international law-enforcement community. Faced with the growing threat, the World Customs Organization is pushing its members, including Canada, to create specialized units to deal with the problem.
"It's new for us," Chartrand said. "But it's something we're working on."
As leaders of the Democratic Party gather to nominate their presidential ticket, they confront an economy in trouble. Voters are worried about the relentless shocks that have buffeted the nation: falling home prices, loan foreclosures, and bank failures; a weaker dollar that has cut consumers' buying power, even as prices spike for gas and food and steel; layoffs in banking and construction and manufacturing.
In the background loom even larger threats to our prosperity: our dependence on oil, which puts our national security at risk, and the accelerating buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, already changing the climate in fundamental and unpredictable ways.
Americans are feeling personal pain and rising anxiety about where all this is headed. They want a new vision for the economic revitalization of the nation and American leadership in the world. The next president will have a precious moment to point the way and mobilize the country and the international community toward a brighter future. At the heart of this opportunity is energy, remaking the vast energy systems that power the nation and the world.
Tuesday, energy and climate change will be the subject of a day-long Rocky Mountain Roundtable organized by the Denver 2008 Convention Executive Committee. The three sessions put this subject into the right context: "The Business of Climate Change," "Energy in a Carbon-Constrained Economy," and "The New Energy Economy."
The technologies we need to begin this economic transformation already exist today, and the dollars will flow if we just change the rules of the energy game, rules that have favored the old ways of doing business with tax breaks, regulatory incentives, and lip service to alternatives, and stop using the atmosphere as a garbage dump for our emissions. As a first step, we must cap our emissions and put a price on carbon. The investments that will result from this decision will be a powerful stimulus for economic growth, competitive advantage, and new jobs — good jobs in manufacturing, installation, and research, entry-level jobs and high-wage jobs alike.
Those "green" jobs will be in the manufacturing sector, producing wind turbines, solar thermal power plants, biofuels refineries, and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles. They will be in the building sector, working in partnership with utilities to reduce the energy waste in every home, business, school and hospital in America. They will be modernizing the electric power grid to make it more reliable and resilient, capturing emissions from our power plants to enable the clean use of fossil fuels, upgrading urban transit, and building high-speed rail to provide alternatives to our roads and highways.
We have seen results like this in Colorado already, thanks to the state's leadership on renewable energy, through enactment of a renewable portfolio standard and most recently on Aug. 15 with the announcement by Vestas, the Danish wind turbine company, that it will build two more factories here, adding 1,350 new jobs to bring its total in the state to 2,450.
The Democratic Party platform recognizes the energy opportunity in its section on "Investing in American Competitiveness" — but it does not go far enough. The size and urgency of this task require a president willing to make it the top domestic priority in the White House — not pigeonholed as an energy initiative or environmental initiative or even as a security initiative, but made the centerpiece of his economic agenda. Indeed, it will demand that the president refocus the mission and responsibility of all relevant government agencies and convene them in a new National Energy Council in the White House.
The success of this year's candidates and next year's elected leaders will rise and fall on how they address the energy issue. Those who convey the scale and scope — and opportunity — of transforming our energy economy will succeed.