Monday, May 11, 2009

Stockholm Convention Adopts Nine New Chemical POPs

May 8: At the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 4) of the Stockholm Convention, meeting in Geneva from May 4-9, the Governments adopted amendments to include nine new persistent organic pollutants (POPs) [See WIMS 5/6/09]. Over 160 Governments have concluded the one-week conference with "practical decisions" which they say will strengthen a global effort to eradicate some of the most toxic chemicals known to humankind. For the first time, the Convention was amended to include new chemicals, many of these are still widely used as pesticides, flame retardants and in a number of other commercial uses.

The nine new chemicals added to the list are: Alpha hexachlorocyclohexane; Beta hexachlorocyclohexane; Hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether; Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether; Chlordecone; Hexabromobiphenyl; Lindane; Pentachlorobenzene; Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride.

UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive, Achim Steiner said, “This meeting in Geneva has culminated in a momentous day for the Stockholm Convention. Its significance cannot be under-estimated. We now have a clear signal that Governments around the world take seriously the risks posed by such toxic chemicals. The tremendous impact of these substances on human health and the environment has been acknowledged today by adding nine new chemicals to the Convention. This shift reflects international concern on the need to reduce and eventually eliminate such substances throughout the global community.”

In another move, a groundbreaking decision on synergies was unanimously adopted, marking the collaboration between the Stockholm Convention and its sister treaties on hazardous chemicals and wastes, the Rotterdam and Basel Conventions. This momentum will gather pace at the UNEP Governing Council Special Session of the Global Ministers Environment Forum slated for February 2010, when an Extraordinary COP will follow immediately afterwards. For the first time, the expanded Working Group will be comprised of the three chemicals and wastes treaties in sequential COPs.

A landmark decision was also reached on the endorsement of the DDT global partnership. While DDT is targeted for eventual elimination, the Convention recognizes that some countries will continue to use this pesticide to protect their citizens from malaria and other diseases. Additionally, the PCB Elimination Network was also endorsed. Countries have now strengthened efforts to phase out polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs through a cooperative framework to support countries in the environmentally sound management and disposal of these harmful substances. The Network will be tasked with establishing key data and evaluating whether the use of PCBs is indeed declining.

The Conference also reviewed the process for evaluating the Convention’s effectiveness in reducing POPs over time. A global monitoring program building on various national and regional monitoring systems will produce a worldwide picture of trends in the quantity and types of POPs in the environment and in the human body.

Access a release from the Convention (
click here). Access the COP 4 meeting website for the agenda, background documents and complete coverage (click here). Access the Stockholm Convention website for complete information on POPs (click here). Access the extensive list and links to COP 4 documents (click here). Access complete day-by-day coverage and summary from IISD Reporting Service (click here).