International Agreements to Manage Persistent Organic Pollutants

Several international agreements seek to control, reduce or eliminate discharges, emissions and losses to the environment of materials that are persistent organic pollutants (POPs) including a number of organochlorine substances.  Of principal importance among these agreements are the global chemical management programs of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) – the Stockholm Convention, the Rotterdam Convention and the Basel Convention.

Under the auspices of UNEP, countries are currently in the process of negotiating an international instrument to reduce or eliminate the release of mercury into the environment from human uses.

The Canadian Chemicals Management Plan is a national program that, along with the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) in Europe actively determines substance properties that will potentially identify any candidate POPs, from a Canadian perspective.  Other jurisdictions have similar national or regional initiatives.

The chemical industry supports the goal of the UNEP conventions. Some of the existing and nominated substances contain chlorine, or are by-products of production processes involving chlorine. C4, as part of the World Chlorine Council (WCC), is actively engaged in supporting these processes and we are committed to the rational implementation of agreements.

The processes to add new substances for international action require the member states to assess whether the substance is deemed to meet specific criteria of the convention for persistence, bio-accumulation, toxicity and long-range transboundary transport. In addition, the review process is required to evaluate “whether sufficient information exists to suggest that a substance is likely to have significant adverse human health and/or environmental effects”.

The evaluation of substances under each agreement has important implications for national decision-making and resulting economic priorities and resource allocation.  As such, C4 and WCC strongly support a process for evaluating chemicals that is transparent, science-based and objective. Efforts to dilute the criteria and/or include substances that do not clearly meet ALL of the established criteria will prevent Parties from focusing their limited resources on those substances that are real priorities at the international level.

Finally, while there are no longer any mercury cell chlor-alkali manufacturing sites in operation in Canada, C4 supports the goals of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global agreement on mercury and the phase out of mercury cell chlor-alkali production.