How does the Stockholm Convention help us to Rid the World of POPs?

Interview with Anne Daniel, General Counsel with the Public Law Sector of Canada’s federal Department of Justice by Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer

Charlie Avis: Anne, many thanks for joining us, tell us please what is your position, your role, and how do you relate to the work of implementing the Stockholm Convention? 

Anne Daniel: Thank you. I work for the Department of Justice advising mainly Environment and Climate Change Canada on a wide range of multilateral environmental agreements. I served on the Canadian delegation during the negotiation of the Stockholm Convention, as well as at all of the COPs to date.  I have also chaired a number of negotiating groups, and am currently leading efforts as Chair of the Stockholm Convention’s Effectiveness Evaluation Committee.

CA: You mentioned the Effectiveness Evaluation committee, whose report has just been published. What are the main conclusions from that evaluation you’d like to share with our audiences?

AD: The report is basically a snapshot of the progress the Convention is making in achieving its objective of protecting human health and the environment from POPs, measured against a framework of indicators provided by the Conference of the Parties (COP).

We concluded that the Convention provides an effective and dynamic framework to regulate POPs throughout their lifecycle, addressing the production, use, import, export, releases, and disposal of these chemicals worldwide.  However, inadequate implementation is the key issue that has been identified in the evaluation, and we have made a number of recommendations aimed at resolving that problem.

CA: More specifically?

AD: To address inadequate implementation, we noted that priority attention should be given to developing, strengthening, and/or enforcing national legislation implementing the Convention that is appropriate for both industrial chemicals and pesticides and specifically implements the Convention’s obligations on POPs.  This gap currently affects implementation of many of the listed POPs, and even PCBs, one of the original “dirty dozen”, where we concluded that the deadlines of 2025 and 2028 are not likely to be met by most Parties.  We also note that Parties are becoming bound by amendments involving chemicals in commerce and not registering for exemptions that they need in order to be in compliance with their obligations. Another area of poor implementation is the submission of national reports, which are required every four years and outline how Parties have met their obligations.  The reporting rate of about 40% meant that there were substantial gaps in the information the committee had to work with during our evaluation.  We recommend that when a compliance committee is established, a priority focus of its work programme should be to improve reporting.

CA: It sounds like a lot of work. So people around the world are less exposed to these toxic chemicals than previously? What about “new” chemicals entering the market, how does the international community deal with those?

AD: Yes, the good news is that the Convention has an excellent Global Monitoring Programme, and monitoring results indicate that regulations targeting POPs are succeeding in reducing levels of POPs in humans and the environment.  For POPs listed as of 2004, concentrations measured in air and in human populations have declined and continue to decline or remain at low levels due to restrictions on POPs that predated the Convention and are now incorporated in it.  For the POPs added in 2009 and after, concentrations are beginning to show decreases, although in a few instances, increasing and/or stable levels are observed.

With better implementation, we can expect these results to improve, and we hope our evaluation report can contribute to helping bring the international community closer to meeting the Convention’s objective.

CA: In a few weeks time there will be the meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions. Will you be travelling to the Triple COPs in Geneva, and what are your hopes and expectations? 

AD: I will indeed participate on the Canadian delegation for all three COPs. For the Stockholm Convention, I expect that the listing decisions and the discussions on a compliance mechanism will be important issues for many delegations, but I hope that Parties reading this interview will take the time to study the recommendations of our Committee, which will be inserted into and negotiated in the relevant COP decisions.  As this is the first effectiveness evaluation done on the basis of a framework of indicators, our report examines all aspects of the Convention’s work and is very far-reaching.

CA: Clearly, much has been achieved, congratulations. What are the major challenges for the Convention, in years ahead?

AD: Based on our report, I would say that improving legislative implementation of the Convention’s obligations at the national level is a major challenge. As the Convention continues to list POPs, with many that are currently extensively used, it may be a challenge for many jurisdictions to take timely action to eliminate and restrict these as required. The Committee noted that there is no subsidiary body charged with focusing on implementation issues in the intersessional period—a real gap—and while adoption of a compliance mechanism has been a challenge in the past, it could fill this gap.   Additional sources of financing also need to be sought and current sources focused on the priorities identified in our report, such as the elimination of the use of PCB in equipment by 2025 and the environmentally sound waste management of liquids and equipment containing or contaminated with PCB, the development of safer, effective and affordable alternatives to DDT and strengthening the capacity of Parties still relying on DDT to commence a sustainable transition away from DDT, and the use of best available techniques and best environmental practices to address releases of unintentionally produced POPs, among others.

CA: How does the international community respond to that?

AD: We have finished our work, and now it is up to the Conference of the Parties to carefully consider the Committee’s recommendations—and decide on the actions that will help improve our individual and collective performance—and move us closer to meeting the Convention’s goal of protecting human health and the environment from POPs.  We are also asking that the secretariat be requested to update the framework of indicators based on the Committee’s recommendations so that the next evaluation is even better.

CA: On the subject of implementation, the Secretariat will host a Technology Fair, in the margins of the Triple COPs, to showcase solutions for implementing the three conventions, including from the private sector. Do you encourage Canadian and other businesses to take part?

AD:  Yes, absolutely.  This seems like a great opportunity for the private sector to showcase how they can contribute to the Convention`s objective.  One of our recommendations is that there is a need to strengthen technical assistance and technology transfer activities, and I encourage those considering participating to review the executive summary of our report at paragraphs 130-137 for particular areas of need.

Regarding another event, the Committee`s Vice-chair and I will be hosting a side event at 1 pm on Tuesday April 25th before this issue arises on the Stockholm agenda.  We plan to explain our report in detail to delegates in advance of plenary discussion.

CA: Thank you very much for your time answering these questions, and thank you also for providing leadership to the Effectiveness Evaluation Committee. I look forward to seeing you at the Triple COPs!

AD:  You are very welcome…..  Before signing off, I want to thank the incredible team that produced this comprehensive and detailed report,the executive summary and the report on the framework, which we hope will help not only the Stockholm Convention, but possibly other treaties that are seeking to evaluate their own performance: the entire Committee from all UN regions, our Vice-chair, Linroy Christian from Antigua and Barbuda, and the secretariat team that worked effectively and efficiently to support the Committee in this complex and challenging task.