Capital: Caracas

Population: 26,400,000 (2008 estimate)

Land Area: The country comprises a continental mainland and numerous islands located off the Venezuelan coastline in the Caribbean Sea. Venezuela possesses borders with Guyana to the east, Brazil to the south, and Colombia to the west. Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Lucia, Barbados, Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines and the Leeward Antilles lie just north, off the Venezuelan coast. Its size is approximately 912,000 square km.

Environmental Indices:

•Environmental Performance Index Ranking (2008): 45th (80.0)

•Environmental Sustainability Index Ranking (2005): 82nd (48.1)

•Political Freedom Ranking (2008): Political Rights: 4; Civil Liberties: 4; Status: Partly Free

Environmental Problems:  Venezuela ranks among the top 10 of the world’s most ecologically diverse countries but has suffered great environmental degradation. Current environmental concerns include sewage pollution of Lago de Valencia; oil and urban pollution of Lago de Maracaibo; deforestation; soil degradation; urban and industrial pollution, especially along the Caribbean coast; threat to the rainforest ecosystem from irresponsible mining operations

Environmental Laws:  Environmental policy in Venezuela is characterized by overly ambitious and strict environmental standards that cannot be realistically enforced either because the country lacks the capacity to do so or because of pressures from the private sector (enforcement of such strict standards might involve sacrificing some economic growth).

Venezuela is an extreme case of total reliance on “command-and-control,” regulations that prescribe and enforce uniform environmental standards for all pollution sources regardless of costs and legal sanctions. In Venezuela, the legal framework for environmental protection is called the “Criminal Environmental Law” (1992) and the defense ministry shares enforcement responsibility with the environmental ministry

Environmental management continues to be at the same time overly centralized and segmented into many institutions. Environmental management is neither insulated from political influences nor coordinated. Therefore, variable and inconsistent enforcement results whenever environmental management is in conflict with economic objectives or political interests.

Key Enactments:

Organic Law of the Environment ("OLE"), enacted on June 16, 1976, lays out the governing principles for the conservation, defense, and improvement of the environment for the benefit of quality of living standards of the nation.

Criminal Environmental Law ("CLE"), enacted on December 5, 1991, (effective as of April 1, 1992), states that penalties can be imposed for infringement of environmental regulations and for causing environmental degradation.

•Organic Health Law

•Organic Law for the Decentralization, Outlining and Transfer of Duties of Public Authorities

•Organic Law for Urban Planning

•Organic Law for Territorial Zoning

•Organic Law for Security and Defense

•Law of Conservation and Reparation of the Beaches

•Biological Diversity Law

•Wildlife Protection Law

•Forestry Law of Soils and Waters

•Agrarian Reform Law

•National Forest Policy 

Constitution:  The Venezuelan Constitution, adopted in 1999, states that every person has the individual and collective right to enjoy a secure, safe and ecologically stable environment, and that every generation has the right and obligation to protect and maintain the environment. The State also has the obligation to protect the environment, biological diversity, genetic resources and ecological processes (Art. 127). Some of the most significant and innovative provisions contained in the Constitution are that: (i) it creates an obligation to conduct environmental assessments prior to engaging in any activity that may harm the environment (Art. 129); and (ii) it provides that in any agreements or permits signed or granted by the State involving natural resources, a clause mandating the protection of the environment and its remediation in the event of damage is implied, even if not expressly established.

Principle Government Agency for Environmental Protection:  The Venezuelan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, a federal-level department that manages environmental reserves, rehabilitation, and natural resources (especially potable water, soil fertility, and the Caribbean coasts). Created in 1976.

Protected Areas:  Venezuela possesses an extensive protected area system, offering various degrees of natural resource protection. The Venezuelan national park system is composed of 43 national parks and 21 natural monuments. Although the first park was established in 1937 (Parque Nacional Henri Pittier), the majority of the parks were declared between 1970 and 1995

•National parks, natural monuments, and wildlife refuges are the strictest categories and make up 16% of Venezuela's territory.

•The other categories of protection, comprising about 32% of the national territory, consider the sustainable use of the natural resources they contain.


Party to: Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands

One of the 17 “Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries

ENERGY INFORMATION: Venezuela is one of the world’s largest exporters of crude oil and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. In 2007, the country was the seventh-largest net oil exporter in the world. The oil sector is of central importance to the Venezuelan economy: it accounts for more than three-quarters of total Venezuelan export revenues, about half of total government revenues, and around one-third of total gross domestic product (GDP). In addition, as a founding member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Venezuela is an important player in the global oil market. 

In 2006, Venezuela consumed 3.2 quadrillion Btus of total energy. Natural gas and oil represent the bulk of total energy consumption in Venezuela. After reaching 46 percent of total energy consumption in 1998, the share of natural gas in Venezuela’s oil mix has fallen to 34 percent. During the same period, the share of oil consumption has risen from 32 percent to 40 percent. Hydroelectricity represents the remainder of the country’s energy mix, as Venezuela is well-endowed with hydroelectric potential.  

Carbon Dioxide Emissions in 2006:  151.29 Million Metric Tons of CO; world rank 29th