The Global POPs Treaty:
Coming Together To Protect Human Health and the Environment
Opening Remarks by:
Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director
United Nations Environment Programme
Fourth Session of the
Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee
for a Treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants (INC-4)
Convened by the United Nations Environment Programme
20 March 2000 -- Bonn, Germany
Good morning, Minister Trittin, Lord Mayor Dieckmann, Dr. Buccini, distinguished delegates, and ladies and gentlemen. I extend to you a warm welcome to this important meeting. More than 110 countries are gathered here in Bonn to negotiate a global treaty on persistent organic pollutants.
The main hall of this historic building is filled. Expectations are high. My friends, the reason is clear. It is the well-being of our planet and all living beings. It is the security of future generations. It is the integrity of the chain of life.
This week, you can make a difference for future generations. You can make enormous progress towards reaching agreement on reducing and eliminating the so-called dirty dozen. We know why we must act. These are toxic substances that last a long time in the air, water, and land. They travel across regions and the world, far from the source of release. They build up in the food chain, and become more concentrated in human beings and whales. They are passed on to the next generation in the womb and breastmilk. Truly travellers without passports.
We know too that the problems are complex. Dioxins from combustion are virtually everywhere in the world. Equipment with polychlorinated biphenyls is aging, and could leak. Stockpiles of unwanted and obsolete stocks of pesticides are piled up and poorly controlled.
Complex problems require coordinated and cooperative action. No one country acting alone can solve this problem. It is a global threat, and it requires a global commitment.
But that is why we are here. The time is ripe for resolution. The Governing Council recognised the urgency by setting a deadline for agreement of this year, the first of the new millennium. Only one more negotiating session remains after this week. It is essential that you work together now to reach agreement and meet this deadline. This is what the people of the world expect. . I am confident you will make excellent progress this week and succeed in your goals because I have seen your work at negotiations in Montreal, Nairobi, and Geneva, and urge you to keep up your hard work out in the same constructive spirit.
One of your most important tasks will be to draft provisions that will enable developing countries and countries with economies in transition to be active partners under the Convention. These provisions will cover both technical assistance and a financial mechanism for providing resources. There are many options and ideas. I have looked at the excellent work of the Implementation Aspects Group and its bureau. There is a solid basis on which to build consensus.
I want to emphasize my concern that countries need to come together on the funding issues. We all understand that the Convention will be asking developing countries to shoulder new responsibilities. Where they lack the means to accomplish its goals, we must find a way to work with them.
But we cannot wait for the treaty to be in place. Direct support to these countries has to start in earnest now. This will help ensure that countries can get the tools and build the base for reducing or eliminating releases of persistent organic pollutants. Through the generosity of several donors, UNEP, working closely with the other UN agencies like UNECE, FAO and WHO, has been able to make a start in strengthening capacities. I note too the valuable expertise and experience being freely exchanged between countries. But this is an area that must be greatly strengthened leading up to the Conventions entry into force. Our efforts now will help build programmes for POPs reduction or elimination, and the environmentally sound management of chemicals for the long run.
There is an additional advantage -- and wisdom -- to taking direct action now. The period before the convention enters into force is the ideal time to apply creative programmes to meet the needs of developing countries. This approach will generate knowledge and experience. Once the convention enters into force, the Conference of the Parties can draw on this experience to refine the approach taken. I believe your discussions on these issues will be -- and must be -- fruitful. It is a very good sign that all the regional groups spent most of Sunday afternoon meeting to work toward a positive outcome. This spirit of consensus building and compromise is the way forward.
In Geneva, you addressed a number of major issues. You developed a proposed schedule for measures to reduce or eliminate releases of the intentionally produced persistent organic pollutants. You reached consensus on an approach to eliminating production of all 10 intentionally produced POPs, while providing an exemption for DDT to protect public health from vector-borne diseases like malaria.
In addition, you accepted the report on establishing scientific criteria and a procedure for identifying additional pollutants for future action. This part of the treaty will help ensure the flexibility and means for addressing toxic pollutants in the future.
Now you need to continue this progress. Your chair, Dr. John Buccini, has given you a scenario note with a very good set of expectations for outcomes. One core objective is to complete work on Article D, addressing all aspects of the control decisions for the 12 substances: the intentionally produced ones, the unintentionally produced by-products, and managing and disposing of POPs-containing wastes. Here, you need to establish elimination of production as the ultimate goal of the Convention for the intentionally produced POPs, with certain limited exemptions. These exemptions could be reviewed at a later date to see if they are still necessary. You also need to determine the most appropriate approaches for dealing with dioxins and furans effectively as well as POPs-containing wastes.
Another of your objectives is to review in depth and make proposals on such matters as national implementation plans; information exchange; public information; awareness and education; and research, development, and monitoring. Finally, there needs to be firm proposals on all of the other remaining aspects of the convention.
The Chairmans goal, which I share, is to make the draft of this treaty as complete and final as possible to enable you to take home a nearly finished convention for consultation in your capitals. Of course, not every issue will be resolved, but this 4th INC meeting should enable you to focus on the key handful of issues to be resolved by you at the next session. With this strategy, I believe there can be a final agreement at INC-5 in South Africa this year, and countries can go to Stockholm in May of 2001 prepared to adopt and sign the treaty.
The world is waiting for a global treaty on persistent organic pollutants, and it is watching what you do here this week. The momentum is here. The time for action is now. I am confident you will come together and give the world and generations to come strong and effective safeguards against these poisons.