Environmental Justice in Italy
Law against Eco-Crimes hitting the Ecomafia
By Francesca Rosignoli, 2015-07-17
On 22 May 2015, the Law No. 68 came into power introducing the first provisions dealing with crimes against environment in Italian Criminal Code. Through the inclusion of Title VI-bis (Crimes against Environment) the following set of new environmental crimes, has been introduced:

· environmental pollution (from 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine between €10,000 and €100,000);
· death or injury as a result of environmental pollution;
· environmental disaster (from 5 to 15 years in jail);
· unpremeditated crimes against environment;
· trafficking and neglect of highly radioactive material (from 2 to 6 years in jail, and fine up to €50,000);
· obstruction of checks (from 6 months to 3 years in jail);
· failure to carry out remediation (from one to 4 years in jail, and fine up to €80,000 for failing to implementing remediation when one is required to).

In accordance with the articles 452-octies and novies, the aforementioned Title VI-bis established also substantive and procedural rules in terms of ad hoc aggravating circumstances concerning mafia activities, cases of injury or death, and a doubling of the period after which environmental crimes must not be persued anymore. It furthermore includes rules that support the remedy to environmental damages (art. 452-decies) and sanctions such as compulsory confiscation and additional penalties as law-enforced by article 32-quater's Criminal Code.

The law against eco-crimes represents a radical change in the traditional paradigm of misdemeanour protection based on abstract endangerment offences that punish the performance of given activities without the required authorisation, or those who exceed certain "thresholds" or fail to meet reporting requirements and other administrative duties.
Before its enforcement, in fact, the most part of environmental crimes were generally considered as misdemeanours (contravvenzioni), which fell outside of the Criminal Code and did not constitute an organic system of provisions, being the results of several interventions of the Italian legislator in different environment-related fields.

The law was passed by a large majority (170 in favor, 20 against, and 20 abstentions in the Senate plus 353 in favor, 19 against and 34 abstentions in the Chamber of Deputies), with the backing of the main environmental associations active in Italy (Legambiente, WWF).

The introduction of such provisions is a significant success for the main environmental organizations in Italy, that after 21 years of struggles, debates and draft bills in some cases covered up, can finally see a real opportunity to contrast, environmental crimes. According to the annual report ecomafia by Legambiente, the so called Ecoreati – amounted in 2014 to 29,293 ascertained crimes – enriching the eco-mafia up to 22 billion euro.

Thanks to such law, Italy could finally become an example to be followed at international level and now that Ecoreati have been introduced in the Criminal Code, polluters, hopefully, will pay.

Please find more information here.
Image: © Alexander Raths