International cooperation concerning chemicals

The environmental effects of chemicals know no boundaries. A high level of environmental protection requires cooperation both within Europe and globally. The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for international cooperation aimed at preventing the environmental impact caused by chemicals as well as for the development and implementation of EU legislation.

The most important international chemical agreements are as follows:

  • Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (PIC Convention)
  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP Convention)
  • POP Protocol of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
  • International convention on mercury
  • Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM)

Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (PIC Convention)

The Rotterdam Convention is based on the procedure of Prior Informed Consent (PIC), according to which, chemicals covered by the convention may only be exported to countries that have provided advance consent for their import. Information and tools for identifying hazardous chemicals are provided to the countries that import chemicals in this way. The parties to the agreement may decide to limit the import of chemicals and notify other parties that have undertaken to observe import limitations of this decision.

The Rotterdam Convention applies to 43 chemicals or chemical groups. Lead compounds that cause severe environmental and health hazards, along with numerous pesticides, are examples of chemicals to which the import notification procedure applies.

The Rotterdam Convention came into force in 2004. Finland accepted the convention in June 2004. The convention has been ratified by 144 parties.

The Rotterdam Convention has been instituted in the EU by Regulation (EC)689/2008 of the European Parliament and Council concerning the export and import of dangerous chemicals. This regulation is, in part, stricter than the international convention.

  • Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (PIC Convention), 1998 (Treaty Series 107-108/2004) (Finlex)

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP Convention)

POP (Persistent Organic Pollutant) compounds are extremely resistant to degradation, and capable of long-range transport from the emission source and bioaccumulation in life forms. In addition, they are severely detrimental to human health or the environment even in small concentrations. As these substances travel far from the emission sources, international measures are required to limit POP compounds.

The Stockholm Convention concerning global limitations on POP compounds came into effect in 2004. Finland ratified the convention in 2002. In total, 178 parties have accepted the convention, which makes it one of the largest environmental agreements in the world.

The convention stops or strongly restricts the production, trade, use and emissions of the POP compounds to which it applies. Initially, the convention covered the “dirty dozen”, i.e. twelve POP compounds: aldrine, dieldrin, endrin, DDT, heptachlor, chlordane, mirex, toxaphen, hexachlorobenzene, PCB, as well as dioxins and furans. In 2009, the parties agreed to limit the production and use of nine new compounds, raising the total to 21. The substances added in 2009 were lindane (HCH) and its isomers (alpha and beta HCH), perfluorooctane sulphonates (PFOS), bromated fire retardants (PBDE), pentabromodiphenyl ether and octabromodiphenyl ether, fire retardant hexabromobiphenyl (HBB), chlordecone, which is used as a pesticide, and pentachlorobenzene (PeCB), which is used as a pesticide in production and as a fire retardant.

In the European Union, the obligations of the Stockholm Convention will be instituted with the POP Regulation (EC)850/2004 and its amendments.

POP Protocol of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

A protocol regarding POP compounds was added to the Convention for Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) in Århus in 1998. This protocol limits the use or emissions of 16 POP compounds in total. Finland accepted the protocol in 2002. The protocol came into effect in October 2003, and there are currently 29 parties involved.
The 16 compounds limited by the CLRTAP-POPs protocol are: aldrine, dieldrin, endrin, DDT, heptachlor, chlordane, mirex, toxaphen, chlordecone, HCH (lindane), hexabromobiphenyl, hexachlorobenzene, PCB, dioxins and furans, as well as PAH compounds. Seven new substances were included in the agreement in 2009.

The POP Protocol, too, has been instituted in the EU through the POP Regulation (EC)850/2004 and its amendments.

• Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution by Persistent Organic Compounds (POP Protocol) (Treaty Series 68/2003) (Finlex)

International convention on mercury

A decision on a global convention to reduce the hazards caused by mercury has been made within the framework of the United Nations Environment Programme. The convention was signed in Minamata, Japan in October 2013. The convention will come into force once it has been ratified by 50 countries, which is estimated to occur in 2018.

Upon taking effect, the convention will, among other things, prohibit the production, export and import of the most significant products containing mercury, such as batteries, switches, cosmetics and measurement devices as of 2020. The use of amalgam in tooth fillings must be minimised. The use of mercury in the chloralkali industry must cease by 2025. Air emissions of mercury from the most prominent emission sources, such as the burning of coal and waste, must be restricted.

Furthermore, the convention limits the international trade of mercury, the production of mercury and sets forth obligations regarding sustainable waste management and the safe storage of mercury. Mercury’s most significant purpose of use, the separation gold from soil in small-scale gold mining, will be restricted.

The convention is particularly important to Finland and countries in the Artic region as mercury is capable of long-range transport and accumulates in the polar regions.

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM)

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) was approved in February 2006 at a high political level. It implements the goal agreed at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, according to which detriments caused to human health and the environment by the use and production of chemicals must be under control by 2020. The SAICM aims for the sustainable global management of chemicals and emphasises its importance in the promotion of sustainable development.

The goal of the SAICM is to reduce risks, improve risk management in relation to chemicals, expand cooperation between various actors and support the development of technical capabilities in developing countries in particular. The strategy steers the parties involved towards identifying the measures required to improve chemical management and supports their implementation, emphasising the importance of increasing the amount of information and education, and preventing the illegal trade of chemicals. The SAICM’s scope covers environmental protection and the health of both consumers and employees. The strategy also aims to promote cooperation between international chemical conventions.

As regards substances that require risk management, the focus is on chemicals that cause particular concern, such as agents that are carcinogenic, affect reproduction and development, remain and accumulate in the environment, and have components that cause immunological or neurological effects.

 

Published 2013-07-30 at 11:01, updated 2016-05-24 at 10:11