European pollution registers to be developed

Second meeting of Århus convention signatories calls for binding rules by 2002

Signatories to the pan-European Århus "public participation" convention asked for governments to be required to create national registers of industrial pollution at their second annual meeting held last week in Dubrovnik, Croatia. A legally-binding instrument on "pollutant release and transfer registers" (PRTRs) should be ready for adoption in 2002, sources at the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) told ENDS Daily.

The decision will mean radical increase in public information on industrial emissions of pollutants in non-EU countries and could prompt the EU to bring forward expansion of its limited PRTR scheme - the European polluting emissions register - due to begin next year (ENDS Daily 24 November 1998). Signed in 1998, the UN Århus convention aims to ensure access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (ENDS Daily 25 June 1998).

At last week's meeting it emerged that entry into force of the convention could happen faster than expected, and even before next summer. Nine countries have already ratified, a UN official told ENDS Daily, and many more reported good progress towards this in Dubrovnik. Earlier this month, the European Commission proposed a series of measures to enable EU ratification, though this looks unlikely to happen until 2002 at the earliest (ENDS Daily 3 July).

In a controversial segment of the meeting, delegates rejected a proposal by Austria to amend the convention's rules on the deliberate release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Delegates asked the GMO task force, led by Austria, to propose a definition of "deliberate release" and to continue to explore all options for public participation. Environmental groups, which had supported Austria's proposal, condemned the meeting's refusal to back it as "shameful".

Follow Up:
Århus Convention, tel: +41 22 917 2384; pollutant release and transfer registers report.

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