Four New Chemicals Proposed for Global Blacklist

PUNTA DEL ESTE, Uruguay, May 5, 2005 (ENS) - Four new chemicals have been proposed for a global ban at the first meeting of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) now underway in Punta del Este. The Convention is an agreement to eliminate some of the world's most hazardous substances, and 12 are on the original list.

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Henrik Hallgrim Eriksen of Norway addresses delegates at the First Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
In addition to the 12 chemicals named when the treaty took effect last May, Norway has nominated the brominated flame retardant pentabromodiphenyl ether (penta-BDE) used in foam cushions in home furnishings.

Mexico is nominating a group of chemicals called hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCH), including the pesticide lindane, a member of that group.

The European Union is nominating two candidates for elimination under the treaty - the pesticide chlordecone, and the brominated flame retardant hexabromobiphenyl, used in machine housings and radio and TV parts.

In Punta del Este, more than 600 delegates from 98 countries are taking part in the conference. One of the delegates' tasks has been to establish a mechanism for adding new chemicals to the 12 now covered by the Convention.

Irish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Avril Doyle, who heads the group of MEPs in Uruguay this week said that goal has now been reached. A "key achievement has been to set up a POPs Review Committee to assess toxic substances to be added to the blacklists in the Convention," Doyle said.

The POPs treaty aims to phase out chemicals that are toxic, persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food web, and cause adverse effects to human health and the environment. These chemicals resist normal processes that break down contaminants, they can travel great distances on wind and water currents and via trade of goods containing POPs, they accumulate in the body fat of people and animals and are passed on from mothers to unborn children.

Colin Church, head of the UK Delegation and acting president of the EU Delegation, said, "We are very much aware of the particular difficulties faced by developing countries who, for example, rely on POPs for disease and pest control. We fully recognize the importance of helping them to implement the Convention effectively.

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Colin Church is head of the UK Delegation and acting president of the EU Delegation (Photo courtesy ENB)
"A sound financial mechanism will be the key to ensuring that this support materializes," Church said. "The EU is the largest contributor to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which is the interim financial mechanism for providing this support, paying 45 percent of the third replenishment."

On Wednesday, the delegates addressed the terms of reference of the POPs review committee, the Convention's effectiveness evaluation, national implementation plans, reporting, technical assistance, and measures to reduce or eliminate releases from wastes.

A group of chemicals known as dioxins, produced unintentionally by manufacturing processes, are on the list of 12 substances slated for elimination.

Parties to the Convention are required to promote the use of Best Available Techniques and Best Environmental Practices (BAT/BEP) to reduce releases of dioxins.

The draft guidelines on Best Available Techniques and the provisional guidance on Best Environmental Practices being considered at the conference are intended to inform the development of national action plans, a requirement under the Stockholm Convention.

NGOs generally agree that these guidelines contain some useful material but that they require further work before they can be adopted.

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The Contact Group on the POPs Review Committee, chaired by Ibrahima Sow of Senegal (third from left) reached agreement on size and membership in the committee. (Photo courtesy ENB)
A global network of public interest NGOs, The International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), released a report in Uruguay Tuesday showing high levels of POPs in waste incineration residues.

IPEN says that means techniques other than waste incineration and landfilling of wastes should be recommended in the BAT/BEP guidelines.

"It also raises the importance of material substitution," the network said, suggesting, "the replacement of materials such as PVC [polyvinyl chloride], a material whose presence in the combustion processes helps to create more dioxins."

Each country must prepare an inventory of its dioxin sources and estimates of their releases. A country will not receive GEF funds for addressing dioxin sources that are not listed in its inventory.

To help countries assemble their inventories, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) developed a draft Standardized Toolkit for Identification and Quantification of Dioxin and Furan Releases.

But the NGO network IPEN says this Toolkit does not cover important by-product POPs such as PCBs and incompletely addresses calculations of dioxin and furan releases.

"We recommend that the Parties do not adopt the Dioxin Toolkit, IPEN said. "It is a flawed document that poses serious limitations to implementing the Stockholm Convention. We suggest COP1 call for substantial revisions, where Parties and stakeholders need better opportunities to provide input and to review the results, in order to insure a more responsive and transparent process."

"BAT/BEP Guidelines should be considered as work in progress," at the Uruguay meeting, IPEN said.

The delegates' discussion of these guidelines on Tuesday shows that they are, in fact, a work in progress. Delegates from industrialized countries viewed the guidelines differently than those from developing countries.

Switzerland, Canada, Australia and the EU supported immediate adoption of the draft guidelines, and, with Ghana, called for the establishment of a time limited, open ended working group to continue negotiations, , the Earth Negotiations Bulletin reports.

The Philippines, with Egypt and China, called for further discussions. Observing that developing countries did not have the resources for immediate implementation, Egypt and the Gmbia objected to references to “immediate adoption.”

China emphasized the need for the guidelines to take into account economic feasibility and, with Yemen and others, to address the particular situations of developing countries. Barbados for the Group of Latin American Consulates (GRULAC), Fiji, Kiribati, and Mauritius stressed the need for the guidelines to reflect the constraints facing small island developing states.

Ecuador for GRULAC, the United States, WWF, and The International POPs Elimination Network, supported continued intersessional work. Kenya stressed the need to address social and economic considerations when considering the reduction of POPs emissions from non-industrial sources.

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Conference Co-Chair Sergio Vives Pusch of Chile will help lead further work on the dioxin best practices guidelines. (Photo courtesy ENB)
The United States suggested that a contact group develop recommendations for Parties’ use of the guidelines. All the delegates agreed, and created a contact group on BAT/BEP led by Conference Co-Chair Sergio Vives Pusch of Chile and Patrick Finlay of Canada.

The EU said it acknowledges that further work on the guidelines is required and has suggested that the expert group continues its work to complement and strengthen the draft documents, for adoption at a future meeting of the Conference of Parties, in particular addressing the needs and circumstances of developing countries and regions.

But more talk about elimination of these chemicals is not enough for Doyle. "We welcome in particular that work is now in progress to set up a non-compliance mechanism, which will give teeth to this Convention so that it is not just a paper tiger," Doyle said. "This will be further elaborated at a special meeting immediately before the second Conference of the Parties.

The official website of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is online at: http://www.pops.int/

For more information on the NGO position, visit IPEN at: http://ipen.ecn.cz/index.php?z=&l=en&k=home