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This page was updated on: 10/25/05
A Brief Introduction to THE Stockholm POPS convention

 

Over the years, the global community has addressed a number of issues regarding the transboundary movement of chemicals and their management, including through negotiated multilateral environmental agreements. Two recent initiatives that stemmed from the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) are the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (the “Rotterdam PIC Convention”), adopted in 1998, and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (the “Stockholm POPs Convention”), adopted in 2001. The Earth Negotiations Bulletin has covered both of these negotiations (see ENB Archives). This introduction and overview focuses on the POPs negotiation processes.

 

THE STOCKHOLM POPS CONVENTION

 

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was adopted and opened for signature on 22 May 2001. The treaty calls for international action on 12 POPs grouped into three categories:

1) Pesticides: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex and toxaphene;

2) Industrial chemicals hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs);

3) Unintended by-products: dioxins and furans.

 

The Convention seeks the elimination or restriction of production and use of all intentionally produced POPs, as well as the continuing minimization and, where feasible, ultimate elimination of the releases unintentionally produced POPs (such as dioxins and furans). Stockpiles must be managed and disposed of in a safe, efficient and environmentally sound manner. The Convention imposes certain trade restrictions.

 

The chemicals listed for elimination under the Convention are the pesticides aldrin, chlordane, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene (HCB), mirex and toxaphene, as well as the industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Continued use of the pesticide DDT is allowed for disease vector control until safe, affordable and effective alternatives are in place. Countries must make determined efforts to identify label and remove PCB-containing equipment from use by 2025. The Convention also seeks the continuing minimization and, where feasible, elimination of the releases of unintentionally produced POPs such as the industrial byproducts dioxins and furans.

 

The Convention provides for the establishment, by the Conference of the Parties, of a subsidiary body to be called the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee. When it comes into existence this committee will assess chemicals that have been proposed for addition to the Convention and will make recommendations to the Conference of the Parties.

 

The Stockholm Convention entered into force on 17 May 2004. As of September 2005, it had 151 signatories and 106 Parties. For updated information on Parties see http://www.pops.int/documents/signature/signstatus.htm

 

A HISTORY OF THE POPS NEGOTIATIONS

 

Growth in the use of certain chemicals - in industry or as pesticides - increased dramatically during the 1960s and 1970s. Many of these chemicals are important to modern society but can also pose a serious threat to human health and the environment. In particular, a certain category of chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) has recently attracted international attention.

 

POPs are chemical substances that are persistent, bio-accumulate and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment. A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that exposure to very low doses of certain POPs - which are among the most toxic substances ever created - can lead to cancer, damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, diseases of the immune system, reproductive disorders, and interference with normal infant and child development. With the further evidence of the long-range transport of these substances to regions where they have never been used or produced and the consequent threats they now pose to the environment worldwide, the international community has called for urgent global action to reduce and eliminate their release into the environment.

 

Prior to 1992, international action on chemicals primarily involved developing tools for risk assessment and conducting international assessments of priority chemicals. For example, in 1989 UNEP amended their London Guidelines for the Exchange of Information on Chemicals in International Trade and the FAO established the International Code of Conduct for the Distribution and Use of Pesticides. Agenda 21, adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, included Chapter 19 on the “Environmentally Sound Management of Toxic Chemicals Including Prevention of Illegal International Traffic in Toxic and Dangerous Products,” which called for the creation of an Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS). The Inter-Organization Programme on the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) was also established to promote coordination among international organizations involved in implementing Chapter 19.

 

In March 1995, the UNEP Governing Council (GC) adopted Decision 18/32 and invited the IOMC, together with the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) and the IFCS, to initiate an assessment process regarding a short-list of 12 POPs, taking into account the circumstances of developing countries and countries with economies in transition. The assessments of the chemicals were to include available information on their chemistry, sources, toxicity, environmental dispersion and socioeconomic impacts. The IFCS was further invited to develop recommendations and information on international action to be considered by the 1997 sessions of the UNEP GC and the World Health Assembly (WHA).

 

In response to this invitation, UNEP convened an Ad Hoc Working Group on POPs that developed a work-plan for the assessment of these 12 substances, which was subsequently adopted by the second meeting of the Intersessional Group (ISG2)of IFCS in March 1996, held in Canberra, Australia. The Ad Hoc Working Group reported to the IFCS meeting of June 1996 in Manila, the Philippines. The meeting concluded that sufficient information existed to demonstrate that international action, including a global legally binding instrument, is required to minimize the risks from 12 specified POPs through measures to reduce and/or eliminate their emissions and discharges.

 

Consequently, IFCS recommended to the UNEP GC and the WHA that immediate international action should be taken. In February 1997, the UNEP GC adopted Decision 19/13C endorsing the conclusions and recommendations of the IFCS. The GC requested that UNEP, together with relevant international organizations, prepare for and convene an intergovernmental negotiating committee with a mandate to prepare an international legally binding instrument for implementing international action, beginning with the 12specified POPs. The first meeting of the INC was also requested to establish an expert group for the development of science-based criteria and a procedure for identifying additional POPs as candidates for future international action. Also in February 1997, the second meeting of the IFCS, held in Ottawa, Canada, decided that the IFCS Ad Hoc Working Group would continue to assist in the preparations for the negotiations. In May 1997, the WHA endorsed the recommendations of the IFCS and requested that the WHO participate actively in negotiations of the international instrument.

 

INC-1: The first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-1) was held from 29 June to 3 July 1998, in Montreal, Canada. INC-1 established the Implementation Aspects Group (IAG) to address technical and financial assistance and requested the Secretariat to prepare a document for INC-2 containing material for possible inclusion in an international legally binding instrument. INC-1 also established the Criteria Expert Group (CEG) to elaborate proposals for science-based criteria, and to develop a procedure for identifying additional POPs as candidates for future international action. INC-1 directed the CEG to incorporate criteria pertaining to persistence, bio-accumulation, toxicity and exposure in different regions, taking into account the potential for regional and global transport.

 

CEG-1: The first session of the Criteria Expert Group (CEG-1) was held from 26-30 October 1998, in Bangkok, Thailand, to consider the CEG's programme of work. At CEG-1, delegates considered, inter alia, the development of a procedure for identifying additional POPs, including the information required at different stages of the procedure, and who would nominate, screen and evaluate a substance as a future POPs candidate.

 

INC-2: The second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-2) was held from 25-29 January 1999, in Nairobi, Kenya. Discussions were largely based on the Secretariat-prepared outline of an international legally binding instrument. After general discussions on this document, delegates divided into the IAG and the Negotiating Group. The Negotiating Group examined the text of the outline and completed preliminary discussions on: measures to reduce or eliminate releases of POPs into the environment; national implementation plans (NIPs); information exchange; public information, awareness and education; and research, development and monitoring. The IAG held general discussions on possible capacity-building activities requiring technical and financial assistance.

 

CEG-2: The second session of the Criteria Expert Group (CEG-2) met from 14-18 June 1999, in Vienna, Austria, to build upon the work of CEG-1 in the development of scientific criteria and a procedure for adding additional POPs to the initial list of 12. The CEG proposed a procedure that provides for the establishment of a review committee to apply screening criteria and to prepare a risk profile and risk management evaluation for proposed substances. The CEG submitted its recommendations to INC-3.

 

INC-3: The third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) met from 6-11 September 1999, in Geneva, Switzerland, adopted the report of the CEG and approved the CEG's recommendations as a basis for further negotiation. In the Negotiating Group, delegates made advances on language for articles on: measures to reduce or eliminate releases; NIPs; the listing of substances in annexes; and information exchange. In the IAG, delegates continued discussions on technical assistance and financial resources and mechanisms.

 

INC-4: The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) met from 20-25 March 2000, in Bonn, Germany. While INC-4 succeeded in drafting articles on technical assistance and financial resources and mechanisms, the text remained heavily bracketed, and developed and developing country positions remained divided. Delegates devoted much time to addressing control measures and made some headway on eliminating language with respect to byproducts. INC-4 also addressed and made progress on articles regarding: NIPs; listing of substances; information exchange; public information, awareness and education; and research, development and monitoring.

 

INC-5: The fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-5) met from 4-10 December 2000, in Johannesburg, South Africa, and concluded negotiations on the POPs convention in the early morning hours of Saturday, 10 December. Going into INC-5, countries were still divided over issues related to: financial resources and mechanisms; measures to reduce or eliminate releases; and the precautionary principle. Delegates met in various contact groups and more informally to address these issues throughout the week, and informal consultations on financial issues and the precautionary principle were held throughout the final night of the conference. Delegates agreed to resolutions on interim financial arrangements and issues related to the Basel Convention. A number of resolutions were also tabled addressing, inter alia, interim arrangements, a capacity assistance network (CAN) and liability and redress, but due to time constraints, discussions were postponed.

 

The Conference of the Plenipotentiaries on the Stockholm Convention convened from 22-23 May 2001, in Stockholm, Sweden. During the Diplomatic Conference, delegates adopted: the Stockholm Convention; resolutions adopted by INC-4 and INC-5, which address interim financial arrangements and issues related to the Basel Convention; resolutions forwarded by the Preparatory Meeting held on 21 May 2001; and the Final Act. At the Conference, a total of 91 countries and the European Community signed the Stockholm Convention, and a total of 115 countries and the European Community signed the Final Act of the Conference.

 

IOMC: In January 2002, in Montreux, Switzerland, the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) convened a meeting on national implementation plans for POPs. At this meeting participants agreed on goals relating to national implementation plans (NIPs), guidance, and intergovernmental organizations. They also addressed NIPs as they relate to the Stockholm Convention, initial guidelines drafted by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the role of various organizations in supporting NIPs.

 

INC-6: The sixth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-6) was held from 17-21 June 2002, in Geneva, Switzerland. Approximately 400 delegates from more than 125 countries, including representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, attended the meeting. During the week, delegates adopted decisions on: size of the Bureau; budget; DDT and Register of specific exemptions; the Expert Group on best available techniques and best environmental practices; wastes and stockpiles; implementation plans; the POPs Review Committee; a clearing-house mechanism; technical assistance; financial resources and mechanisms and the interim financial mechanism; effectiveness evaluation; non-compliance; and INC-7.

 

WSSD: The sound management of chemicals was addressed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September 2002. Delegates agreed to text in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation supporting entry into force of the Rotterdam PIC Convention by 2003 and the Stockholm POPs Convention by 2004. The Plan of Implementation also contains commitments to

 

• reduce the significant effects of chemicals and hazardous waste on human health and the environment by 2020;

• encourage countries to implement the new globally harmonized system for the classification and labeling of chemicals, with a view to having the system operational by 2008;

• promote efforts to prevent international illegal trafficking of hazardous chemicals and hazardous waste, as well as damage resulting from the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous waste; and

• further develop a strategic approach to international chemicals management based on the Bahia Declaration and Priorities for Action beyond 2000 of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) by 2005.

 

INC-7: The seventh session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-6) was held from 14-18 July 2003, in Geneva, Switzerland. Approximately 400 delegates from more than 135 countries, as well as representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, attended the meeting. With expectations that the Stockholm Convention will enter into force early in 2004, this was almost certainly the last meeting as an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee. (The Convention will enter into force 90 days after receipt of the 50th instrument of ratification; 33 countries have ratified thus far, and there are indications that the required balance will be met early in 2004). During the week, delegates focused on addressing a number of “housekeeping” issues in preparation for the first COP. Decisions were adopted on: offers to host the permanent Secretariat; technical assistance; national implementation plans (NIPs); exempted use; Party reporting; specific exemptions; DDT; interim financial arrangements; a standardized Toolkit for identification and quantification of dioxin and furan releases; measures to reduce or eliminate releases from stockpiles and wastes; effectiveness evaluation; the budget; and the financial mechanism.

 

POPs COP-1: The first Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) was held from 2-6 May 2005, in Punta del Este, Uruguay. POPs COP-1 succeeded in adopting a broad range of decisions required to set the Convention�s implementation in motion. These decisions relate to: providing for the evaluation of the continued need for DDT use for disease vector control; establishing a review process for entries in the register of specific exemptions; adopting guidance for the financial mechanism; establishing a schedule for reporting; establishing arrangements for monitoring data on POPs; adopting rules of procedure and financial rules; adopting the budget for the Secretariat; and establishing the POPs Review Committee. Other matters discussed included: the format for the DDT Register and the Register of specific exemptions; the process for developing guidelines to assist Parties in preventing the formation and release of unintentionally produced POPs; and guidelines on best available techniques and best environmental practices.

 

POPS COP-2: The second meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (PIC COP-2) met from 27-30 September 2005, in Rome, Italy. At COP-2, delegates discussed and adopted 15 decisions on, inter alia: the programme of work and the budget for 2006; operational procedures of the Chemical Review Committee (CRC); the finalization of the arrangements between the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for the provision of the secretariat to the Rotterdam Convention; pilot projects on the delivery of regional technical assistance; and cooperation and synergies between the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention secretariats. Delegates agreed to forward a bracketed text on a compliance mechanism to COP-3 and to task the Secretariat with a study on financial mechanisms. More information.