GENEVA—Parties to the Rotterdam Convention agreed to add three chemicals to a list of hazardous substances subject to prior informed consent (PIC) proceedings, but failed to reach a consensus on the proposed listing of chrysotile asbestos due to opposition from Canada and several other countries.
Meeting in Geneva June 20-24 for the Fifth Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent Procedures for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides, representatives from the convention's 143 member governments agreed to add the herbicide alachlor and the insecticide aldicarb to the PIC list.
The two chemicals were recommended for listing by the convention's Chemical Review Committee in March 2008 (35 CRR 613, 6/20/11).
Agreement was also reached on listing the pesticide endosulfan after Cuba lifted its objections. Cuba had argued the listing would pose major challenges for developing countries in terms of implementation and sought assurances that technical and financial assistance would be forthcoming.
Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) decided in April to add endosulfan to its list of banned chemicals, with some limited exceptions. Endosulfan is banned in at least 60 countries, with other nations such as Brazil, China, and the United States phasing out the pesticide (35 CRR 482, 5/9/11).
Adopted in 1998, the Rotterdam Convention requires countries exporting chemicals or pesticides listed in Annex III that are banned or severely restricted at home to notify the importing country and receive approval before the shipment is sent, a process known as prior informed consent.
The debate over chrysotile asbestos once again stymied negotiators. Chrysotile asbestos was recommended for listing by the Chemical Review Committee in February 2006 but was blocked from inclusion in Annex III at subsequent COP meetings in October 2006 and 2008, with Canada, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, and Ukraine refusing to join consensus on the listing.
That opposition appeared to be crumbling at COP-5 after India announced a shift in position and said it would support the listing of chrysotile asbestos in Annex III. However, Canada's delegation later announced it would not join any consensus in favor of a listing.
Canada was later joined by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and Vietnam in announcing their continued opposition to the listing of chrysotile asbestos.
Canadian officials declined to spell out their reasons for opposing the listing at the final COP plenary session, but they said Canada has been promoting the safe and controlled use of asbestos for more than three decades. The Canadian delegation declined to comment when asked by BNA to explain its position.
Unlike the Stockholm Convention, where a decision to ban or restrict a chemical can be made by a vote, decisions under the Rotterdam Convention are made by consensus.
A compromise proposal was put forward by the European Union under which Rotterdam parties would be “encouraged” to apply the PIC procedures to chrysotile asbestos on a “voluntary and interim basis” until the next COP meeting.
That proposal ran into opposition from African countries, which argued the compromise could end up undermining the Rotterdam Convention in the long term.
In other matters, delegates once again failed to agree on a proposal regarding procedures and mechanisms for ensuring parties’ compliance with the Rotterdam Convention.
Article 17 of the Convention calls on the Conference of the Parties to develop and approve, as soon as practicable, procedures and institutional mechanisms for determining noncompliance and for treatment of noncomplying parties.
One proposal called for establishment of a compliance committee that would offer advice or assistance to a party not in compliance. When noncompliance continued despite the assistance, the committee could issue a statement of concern, request that the case be made public, or recommend to the country concerned that the situation be rectified.
The conference agreed that the original compliance mechanism proposal would serve as the basis for discussion at the sixth COP meeting in 2013, with the chair's compromise also serving as a possible input.
By Daniel Pruzin
More information on the 5th Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent Procedures for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides is available at http://www.pic.int/TheConvention/ConferenceOftheParties/MeetingsDocuments/COP5/tabid/1400/language/en-US/Default.aspx .
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