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Hazardous wastes liability regime to be finalized in December

Geneva/Nairobi, 6 September 1999 - Delegates from 87 countries meeting here last week made further progress on elaborating a Protocol on Liability and Compensation for Damage Resulting from Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

The draft text will now be forwarded to the Fifth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-5) of the Basel Convention for further negotiation. COP-5 will take place in Basel, Switzerland, from 6 to 10 December 1999 and will mark the Convention's tenth anniversary.

If adopted and then ratified, the Protocol will for the first time establish a rigorous system for assigning liability in the event of an accident involving hazardous wastes. This liability is to be strict, regardless of fault. However, the Protocol is also expected to place a cap on financial liability. The exact amount of this cap will still need to be agreed.

In addition, there is to be a legal requirement to take insurance for all hazardous waste shipments. Because this requirement would be combined with a liability cap, the insurance industry should be able to provide effective coverage.

While good progress has been made on liability, the question of whether or not to establish an Emergency and Compensatory Fund for assisting developing countries faced with unwanted wastes has proved more difficult.

Another outstanding issue is the scope of the Protocol: should it cover only the wastes characterized as hazardous under the Basel Convention, or should it also address wastes defined as hazardous in national legislation?

The negotiations started in 1993 as a response to developing country concerns about their lack of financial and technological capacity for cleaning up unwanted hazardous waste dumps and spills on their territory.

In addition to recognizing the Convention's accomplishments during its first decade, COP-5 will seek to set the global agenda for reducing the risks of hazardous wastes over the next ten years. Other critical issues to be addressed include the need for environmentally sound management of wastes, the prevention of illegal traffic, and the need to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes at source.

The Basel Convention was adopted in March 1989 and entered into force in May 1992. It has 130 Parties.

Note to journalists:
For more information please contact
Per Bakken
on tel: (+41-22) 917 8213, fax: (+41-22) 797 3454,
Michael Williams
on (+41-22) 917 8242/44, fax: (+41-22) 797 3464,

Official documents and other information on the Basel Convention are available on the Internet at In Nairobi, please contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman and Director of Communications and Public Information Branch, Nairobi, Kenya.
Tel: (254-2) 623292; Fax: 623692;

UNEP News Release 1999/98

Monday 06 Sep 1999
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