Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
POPs Treaty Signed, NGOs Call for Early Ratification
The new and long anticipated international treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) was signed into formal legal existence on May 23 in Stockholm, Sweden by 91 countries and the European Commission. PAN groups and other NGOs attending the Stockholm meeting from around the world welcomed the treaty as an important step toward eliminating chemical pollutants from the global environment, and called for rapid ratification and implementation.
The POPs treaty, which will be known as the Stockholm Convention, targets 12 POPs chemicals for elimination. POPs are a class of chemicals which are toxic, persist in the environment, accumulate in the body fat of humans and animals, concentrate up the food chain, and can be transported across the globe. Nine of the initial 12 chemicals targeted by the Convention are pesticides. PAN International has been calling for the global elimination of these pesticides since 1985 through its Dirty Dozen campaign. The other chemicals on the initial list are the industrial chemicals PCBs and industrial by-products, dioxins and furans.
The Convention will go into effect as soon as it is ratified by 50 countries. Canada has already submitted its ratification to the UN Environment Programme, and the United States has indicated that the Convention will be submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification in late 2001 or early 2002.
NGOs and some governments are calling for 50 ratifications and entry into force of the Convention by September 2002, when the World Summit on Sustainable Development (“Rio +10”) will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa. PAN and other NGOs involved in the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) are also calling for the same schedule of ratification for the related Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent, and are working to make this rapid schedule a reality.
Additional POPs chemicals can be added to the initial list of 12 once the Convention goes into effect. At the Stockholm meeting, the European Union pressed for immediate establishment of a Scientific Review Committee, which would be responsible for considering new chemicals to come under the Convention. Some of these chemicals, such as the pesticides lindane and endosulfan, are still in widespread use in both industrialized and developing nations.
In the weeks leading up to the Stockholm meeting, PAN North America delivered more than 400 letters from PANNA affiliates and supporters to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in support of the immediate establishment of the Review Committee. Despite strong grassroots support in the U.S. and the EU’s valiant efforts in Stockholm, immediate establishment of this Committee was blocked by the delegations from the U.S., China and many developing countries.
In his closing remarks at the Stockholm meeting, the Prime Minister of Sweden Goran Persson recognized the importance of the Convention and called on the international community to go further. “Dangerous substances must be replaced by harmless ones step by step,” said Persson. “If there is the least suspicion that new chemicals have dangerous characteristics it is better to reject them.” Sweden currently holds the presidency of the European Union.
Sources: PANNA, IISD Linkages (http://www.iisd.ca/linkages/chemical/popsd/index.html)
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