States to review Atlantic pollution pledge

Ospar commission meeting to see chemical phase-out decisions, major environmental quality review

Officials from countries party to the Ospar convention will gather in Copenhagen next week to review progress toward ending pollution of the north-east Atlantic Ocean by 2020.

The annual meeting of the Ospar commission is expected to see new decisions taken on prioritising chemicals for reduction measures and on the use of chemicals by offshore installations. A major review of environmental quality in the region is also due to be released, while the UK and France will be put under political pressure over radioactive discharges from nuclear reprocessing (ENDS Daily 22 June).

Implementing the 1998 Sintra agreement will be the main focus of this year's Ospar commission meeting, which will not be attended by ministers. Sintra commits Ospar states to aim for a virtual end to marine pollution in the north-east Atlantic region through a "cessation" of discharges of all hazardous substances by 2020 and a reduction in discharges of radioactive substances so that they produce almost no "additional concentrations" in the environment (ENDS Daily 28 June 1998).

A decision expected on the Ospar system for prioritising chemicals for action is expected to create a process for deciding which chemicals to move from a candidate list that already has 400 substances on it to a priority list targeted for phase-out (ENDS Daily 26 October 1999). Ospar commission executive secretary Ben van de Wetering told ENDS Daily today that adoption of the scheme would mark a "historic" moment. During the Copenhagen meeting, Ospar parties are also expected to endorse plans to add 12 specific new substances to the priority list, bringing the total to 27.

A first major review of environmental quality in the north-east Atlantic is to be released during the meeting. Preparation of quality status report (QSR) 2000 was restated at Sintra. Its conclusions and recommendations for action are expected to guide much future policy making under Ospar.

European environmental groups have marked the approaching meeting claiming a "lack of political will" by governments to take the necessary actions to protect the marine environment. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said today that too few chemicals had been prioritised for phase-out. While welcoming QSR 2000, the group said that drafts showed the report to be weak in its conclusions and recommendations. "Not one dangerous chemical has ... been banned [since Sintra]," WWF said.

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