EU urges complete ban on top POPS

Nairobi talks produce first draft of persistent chemicals' treaty, highlight splits on some aspects

The EU has called for a complete end to the production and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) at an international meeting discussing a draft treaty on global controls.

Speaking as the EU presidency, Germany urged a complete ban on the production and use of the 12 most harmful POPs - which include DDT, PCBs and dioxins. It also said the import and export of POPs should be prohibited, unless they were clearly about to be destroyed in accordance with environmentally sound principles.

Organised by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the second round of negotiations for a global treaty on "reducing and/or eliminating" emissions of 12 POPs by 2000 was held in Nairobi last week with 350 delegates from 103 countries.

According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), which closely tracks international environmental negotiations, delegates at the talks made "solid progress" towards agreeing substantive articles and finished with a first draft of the treaty.

Delegates remained divided on some issues, however, particularly whether the treaty should specify management or elimination of controlled substances. Russia, for example, did not agree with setting a deadline for phasing out the use of DDT, arguing that its application was justified in major outbreaks of malaria. It also opposed the phase out of hexachlorobenzene for military purposes, while accepting that it be banned as a pesticide.

The USA, Canada and Australia wanted the goal for dioxins and furans to be reduction rather than complete elimination of production, since both are produced as by-products of mining and other industrial activity. The three countries also wanted a clause on business confidentiality that most other states disagreed with. The EU recognised that some financial assistance would be required to help developing countries meet their obligations under a treaty, including tackling of stockpiles.

Many of these issues will now be taken up by a working party drawing up detailed annexes for different groups of POPs, to be presented at the next negotiating session later this year. The annexes will contain definitions of what uses will be allowed and for how long. Individual countries will be given specific exemptions for, for example, trace contaminants, production occurring during production of another substance which is part of a loop of production and is not released to the environment, and medical uses.

Another round of talks will also be held in June to draw up scientific criteria for identifying a second group of POPs.

Follow Up:
UNEP, tel: +41 22 797 3460.

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