Environmental Crime and Climate Security Programme

This theme focuses on the multifaceted relationship between climate change, environmental and human security, activism, and organised crime.

This programme of research, events and capacity-building activities is dedicated to understanding and combatting global environmental security challenges. Our ground-breaking work has driven policy change and mainstream understanding of the intersections of illicit finance, conflict and corruption with environmental crime, including the illegal wildlife trade; illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing; the illicit exploitation of natural resources; and timber trafficking. Furthermore, our work encompasses cross-cutting issues of climate change and energy security.

In addition to research and policy, activities have included practical capacity-building to improve societal responses to problems of local and global significance. Future priorities include leveraging best practice and key learnings in neglected jurisdictions, as well as pioneering novel research into water security; the energy transition and corruption; timber and waste trafficking; and other environmental harms in a warming world.

Research areas

Strategic Hub for Organised Crime Research (SHOC)

SHOC aims to bring together academics, practitioners and policymakers to create a collaborative network of experts, working to improve understanding of and responses to organised crime, policing challenges, and environmental crime and climate security.

Strategic Hub for Organised Crime Research (SHOC)

SHOC is a world-class research network that brings together academics, practitioners, policymakers and the private sector to facilitate policy-relevant research and dialogue on organised crime.

Illegal Wildlife Trade

The global illegal wildlife trade is a £17-billion illicit economy that drives species extinction and habitat destruction, threatening biodiversity and humanity worldwide through the unsustainable use of natural resources, ecosystem impacts and the acceleration of climate change. The proceeds of wildlife crime fuel illicit financial flows, driving economic and democratic instability.

RUSI’s work in this area focuses on strengthening our response to wildlife-related corruption and money laundering, developing effective legal and policy frameworks, understanding and improving deterrence, and building capacity and collaborative efforts across the public and private sectors to target the real beneficiaries of the crime.

Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing

We investigate the environmental harms and criminal drivers of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. To-date, RUSI’s research has demonstrated that IUU fishing activity takes places on an organised, systematic scale across multiple jurisdictions. Drawing on various research projects, our programme seeks to strengthen the global response to this security challenge by examining past interventions and predicting future trends to offer a more comprehensive understanding of the obstacles to – and opportunities for – effective action.

Climate Security

We carry out research on the evolving impact of global warming on our environmental security, examining the changing dynamics of environmental crime and other anthropogenic harms. To-date, most global research and practical action has focused on addressing current environmental harms endangering species worldwide. However, RUSI’s trailblazing research advances our understanding of these current dynamics and looks ahead to identify and address future challenges in recognition of climate change being a threat multiplier.

Water Security

Water security has become increasingly critical in a warming world, and this newly created programme aims to expand RUSI’s role in this forward-thinking area of research. Water is a critical resource not only for agriculture, but also for sanitation and industry. Past RUSI research has focused on marine systems and aquaculture, and future research also hopes to dive into waste, resource scarcity, and conflict.

Natural Resource Exploitation

This research bridges the many other facets of environmental harms and crimes such as timber, waste and mining, all of which can contribute to water, energy and food security challenges as well as accelerating climate change and driving economic and governmental instability. Environmental crime has surpassed the illegal small arms trade in value, and over half of this comes from illegal logging and deforestation. A major strength of RUSI’s research in this area comes from understanding how such exploitation intersects with many other thematic areas of expertise, such as illicit financial flows, international conflict, and terrorism.


View projects related to this programme of work.

Interrogating Corruption Risk in Voluntary Carbon Markets

Environmental Crime in a Warming World

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Climate Change

Using Closed Illegal Wildlife Trade Cases to Generate New Financial Intelligence

Climate and Environmental Activism

Climate, Energy and Security in the Middle East

Combatting Wildlife Crime in Uganda

Combatting the Illegal Wildlife Trade in West and Central Africa: Phase II

Closed projects

Independent Assessment of Illegal Wildlife Trade in the UK


Combatting International and Trans-border Wildlife Trafficking in Peru an...


Combatting the Illegal Wildlife Trade in West and Central Africa: Phase I


Follow the Money II: Capacity-Building to Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade in Eas...


Follow the Money: Disrupting Wildlife-Linked Illicit Financial Flows in Kenya...


Illegal Wildlife Trade Financial Taskforce


Reviewing closed wildlife trafficking cases in Lao People’s Democratic Republic


Corruption as an Enabler of Wildlife Trafficking


Turning the Tide: Learning from Responses to Large-Scale Illegal Fishing


Below the Surface: How Illegal Fishing Threatens Our Security