Press releases

Monday 27 Mar 2000

Progress made in negotiating global treaty on persistent organic pollutants; 121 countries participate

Nairobi, 27 March 2000 - The fourth round of negotiations on a global treaty on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) concluded on 25 March 2000, with governments reaffirming eventual elimination as the goal of the Convention and including exemptions for use of DDT in controlling malaria mosquitoes and for existing uses of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), subject to periodic review. Intensive discussions also laid the basis for deciding on technical and financial assistance at the last round of negotiations, to be held from 4-9 December, 2000 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

"Negotiators made important progress on a number of key issues. They are now in a good position to reach agreement on the treaty by the end of 2000, the deadline in the mandate from the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme," said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP Executive Director. "Because persistent organic pollutants endanger human health and the environment from one generation to the next, countries are doing the hard work needed to write a treaty that can withstand the test of time."

A total of 317 delegates from 121 countries participated in the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) negotiation, working with 11 UN bodies and specialized agencies, 7 intergovernmental organizations, and 81 non- governmental organizations and other bodies. Meeting participants totalled 501. Delegates will now consult with their governments on proposals made and issues identified in Bonn, including technical and financial assistance. "The meeting recognized that technology and funding are critical to successful implementation of the Convention. They recognized also that developing countries and countries with economies in transition will need funds and environmentally sound technology to allow them to meet the obligations," Mr. Toepfer said. "In Bonn, delegates made gains in addressing the 'what' and 'how' of technology issues. In South Africa, they can take up proposals for accessing and making better use of technology assistance."

New proposals for ensuring access to funding were considered, including several, which if adopted, would build on the Global Environment Facility, in recognition of its potential for addressing global environmental issues. The G-77 countries and China said the nature of the POPs issue and experience with existing mechanisms reflect the need for a dedicated financial mechanism, which should include an independent multilateral fund. The meeting accepted the offer by John Buccini, INC chair, that a meeting of 20 countries be held intersessionally to seek common ground and help bring about resolution in December.

On controls, the negotiators favoured retaining the goal of ultimate elimination of production and use of all 10 intentionally produced persistent organic pollutants in the mandate. These are the pesticides - aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, and toxaphene; and the industrial chemicals - PCBs and hexachlorobenzene, which is also a pesticide. Such exemptions would be subject to periodic review to determine continued need.

On DDT, negotiators continued to favour proposals eliminating production and use, but including a public health exemption as countries adopt alternative chemical and non-chemical strategies and reduce reliance on DDT.

Negotiators agreed generally on basic provisions for continuing minimization of the unwanted by- products - dioxins and furans. An annex was proposed as a basis for further negotiations, including not only dioxins and furans, but also hexachlorobenzene and PCBs when unintentionally formed in certain processes.

Aside from a few technical issues, agreement was reached on proposals to establish scientific criteria for identifying additional persistent organic pollutants for future international action and a procedure for deciding on their inclusion. The mandate calls for criteria and a procedure to give countries the means to respond to problems in the future.

Among other provisions, there was support for proposals to: eliminate existing uses of PCBs by certain dates, to be determined; ensure the environmentally sound management of POPs wastes, require national implementation plans, promote information exchange, facilitate technology transfer, and foster research and development.

At the close, the meeting requested the Chair to tidy up the negotiating text and ensure consistency of terminology used to facilitate talks at INC-5.

*****

The Bonn meeting, held from 20-25 March 2000, is the Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) for an International Legally Binding Instrument for Implementing International Action on Certain Persistent Organic Pollutants. It built on the foundation for a treaty laid at the First Session (INC-1) in Montreal; the Second Session (INC-2) in Nairobi; and the Third Session (INC- 3) in Geneva.

Note to journalists:
Additional information is available via the Internet
[www.chem.unep.ch/pops]. For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact
James B. Willis,
Director, UNEP Chemicals,
at tel. (+41 22) 917 81 83; fax (+41 22) 797 34 60;
e-mail: chemicals@unep.ch;
or
Linda Durkee,
Policy and Communications Advisor, UNEP Chemicals,
at tel: (+41 22) 917 85 11; fax: (+41 22) 797 34 60;
e- mail: ldurkee@unep.ch;

Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman/Director of Communications and Public Information,
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya;
tel and fax: (254-2) 623292;
e-mail: cpiinfo@unep.org

UNEP News Release NR00/36

Monday 27 Mar 2000
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