This paper summarizes the discussions and conclusions of a workshop on the nature and control of environmental black markets held at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London on 27–28 May 2002. Thanks to generous support from the European Commission (DG Environment) and UNEP Ozone Secretariat, some eighty participants from over thirty different countries were able to attend.

Rather than simply collect and repeat what is known about the extent of the illegal activities in specific jurisdictions – a traditional indulgence of the regulatory community – the workshop was intended to provide a more systematic understanding of the driving forces behind international environmental crime. Efforts to tackle the smuggling of environmental contraband have been dogged by an ad hoc and unsystematic approach where individual enforcement agencies attempt to headhunt environmental criminals without reducing the size of the illegal market in which they operate. The failure of the international ‘war on drugs’ suggests that this policy is doomed: as long as demand and supply pressures that shape profit-making opportunities remain, other operators will expand their operations or new operations will enter the international market. Thus, the workshop raised the need to think beyond simply increasing enforcement effort to minimize overall levels of environmental harm by addressing the demand and supply of the contraband.