UN conference approves POPs convention in Stockholm
For more about POPs and the convention, visit the International POPs Elimination Network
In a ceremony at the White House on 19 April 2001, George W. Bush voiced his support for ratification of the Convention by the U.S. Senate.
The Stockholm Convention commits nations that ratify the treaty to work toward of elimination of some of the world's most dangerous chemicals, immediately or as a long-term goal.
The initial chemicals targeted by the convention are widely acknowledged to be hazardous to human health and the environment, because of their toxicity, because they resist degradation and thus persist for decades or longer, because they become concentrated in living tissue, and because they are transported globally by atmospheric and oceanic currents, and other transport modes.
Each of the initial 12 chemicals targeted by the convention is a proven endocrine disrupting compound.
POPs have become ubiquitous contaminants of fish, dairy products, and other foods around the world. One or more POPs chemicals are detectable in virtually every living organism, and many people around the world now carry enough POPs in their body fat to raise concern about serious health problems, including reproductive and developmental problems, cancer and immune system disruption.
What happened in Stockholm?
The collection of nations formally participating under the auspices of the UN in the negotiation process (more...) first reached agreement on a few remaining disputes about language. These were text passages in the Convention that remained in dispute despite over 2 years negotiation.
The final debate was over what steps could be taken in the future to begin considering other chemicals as targets of the Convention, beyond the first twelve covered explicitly by the treaty. The US and its allies argued that no formal steps under the auspices of the Convention should be taken on this key issue until ratification is achieved. Specifically, the US opposed allowing the POPs Review Committee from gathering or evaluating data on potential new POPs chemicals until the Convention is ratified by at least 50 nations.
The European Union, in contrast, proposed that the process of information-gathering should begin as candidate chemicals are identified. The EU preferred this approach because it wished to speed up the process. Under the US's proposal (which was fronted by the G-77 nations after strong US lobbying behind the scenes), it is unlikely that any new chemicals will be included formally and thus identified for banning for at least a decade.
In the final moments of debate, faced with the choice of losing key elements of the treaty that defined the general process of including new chemicals or backing down on their position about timing, the EU agreed to the US proposal
Throughout the entire negotiations, the EU proved far more progressive and precautionary in its negotiating positions than did the United States. This final concession, forced by the US, consigns the treaty to focusing on old chemicals that lack, to a large degree, any strong economic constituency because for the most part the targeted chemicals are already banned or heavily regulated in the developed world. The treaty is still immensely valuable, especially because of the economic assistance it will bring to developing countries attempting to manage hazardous chemicals, but it could, and should, have been far more supportive of public health.
The agreement reached on these points resolved the last remaining disputes about specific language within the Convention. Afterward, ministerial representatives from participating governments signed the Convention on behalf of their governments. EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman represented the United States.