Wonk Warning: What follows is a long and detailed post wrapping up last week's POPRC6 meeting. Read at your own risk!
I recently spent a week in Switzerland attending the sixth meeting of the Stockholm Convention's Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee. As I reported on Friday, the Committee voted late in the day to recommend a global phaseout of endosulfan, an antiquated organochlorine insecticide.
But the endosulfan decision isn't the only good news from POPRC6. In an earlier post I noted some other issues on the Committee's docket: what to do with PFOS- and PBDE-waste and whether or not SCCPs and HBCD are indeed persistent organic pollutants that warrant global action. Happily, the Committee made good decisions on almost all of these issues.
Four out of five ain't bad! The committee took the best possible decisions on endosulfan, HBCD, and PFOS- and PBDE-waste, and resisted the temptation to jettison SCCPs, deciding instead to keep them a holding pattern for a few more years. Not exactly what we were hoping for, but setting them aside would have been worse.
And it was heartening to see Brazil — one of the world's biggest users of endosulfan — say repeatedly that even though endosulfan was economically very important to them, they were nonetheless phasing it out because of studies "indicating reproductive and endocrine problems in farm workers" who use it. Likewise, New Zealand noted that they banned it with a very short phaseout period, and growers were able to quickly find effective alternatives. This despite outcry at the time that the ban would decimate certain industries.
When the Conference of the Parties meets in April to act on the POPRC's recommendation of a global phaseout for endosulfan, they should remember the examples of Brazil and New Zealand. Brazil, because they recognize that a ban is the right and necessary thing to do, in spite of possible economic consequences; and New Zealand, because those consequences turned out to be far less problematic than predicted.
This is the last blog in a series by Karl Tupper on the POPRC6 meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, from October 11-15. Previous posts in this series:
* Now would probably be a good time to describe how the POPRC evaluates chemicals. Any country that's ratified the Convention can nominate a chemical for evaluation. The text of the Convention dictates that a nomination must jump through three hoops, with each taking at least a year to complete. The first hoop is akin to a criminal indictment. The POPRC looks at the evidence, and decides whether there's sufficient information available to evaluate the chemical further. If there is, the Committee moves on to preparing a "Risk Profile". This is the like the actual trial: Is the chemical "likely, as a result of its long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse environmental and human health effects, such that global action is warranted," or not? If the answer is yes, then the chemical is officially a persistent organic pollutant and the committee moves on the last phase, sentencing. A "Risk Management Evaluation" (RME) is then prepared, which assesses various control measures. Once the text of the RME is finalized, the POPRC makes it's final recommendation to the COP: total ban (an "Annex A listing"), a phase out (an "Annex A listing with specific exemptions"), or restricting use to certain essential uses (an "Annex B listing"). At this POPRC meeting, endosulfan jumped through the third and final hoop, and HBCD though the second hoop.)