EU lawmakers this week included large-scale forest fires and widespread air, water and soil pollution by companies or individuals to an updated list of offences and sanctions.

The new list, which includes environmental offences such as the depletion of water resources, illegal timber trade, pollution caused by ships and breaches of EU chemicals legislation, also foresees longer prison time and steeper fines.

For the first time, MEPs have included “qualified offences”. These violations concern sweeping forest fires or extensive air, water or soil pollution which lead to ecosystem devastation. Punishment in cases these led to loss of human life can reach up to 10 years in prison and high fines.

The new directive, to go into effect after the decision is published in the EU’s official journal, foresees imprisonment of individuals and company representatives for environmental crimes and depending on how long-lasting, severe or reversible the damage is.

Lawmakers are also requiring offenders to reinstate the affected areas as well as compensate for losses. Violating companies may have to pay penalties of up to 5 percent of their annual turnover.

According to the European Parliament statement, environmental crimes the fourth largest criminal activity globally.

Greece together with other EU member states will have two years to harmonize with the rules.

Additionally, to ensure transparency, MEPs are calling on EU governments to provide whistle-blowers with support and assistance with regard to criminal proceedings. They are also requesting that specialized training is offered to police, judges, and prosecutors and that governments formulate awareness-raising campaigns to fight environmental crime.

“It is a major step in the right direction that any person in a leading position at a company responsible for polluting can be held liable as well the business itself. With the introduction of a duty of care, there is nowhere else to hide behind permits or legislative loopholes,” said European Parliament Rapporteur Antonius Manders, adding that “polluters will pay”.