More than 100 governments, UN officials and over 50 NGOs are participating in the UNEP-sponsored talks (29 June - 3 July) intended to produce a global, legally binding treaty by the end of 2000. Delegates will put forward their opening positions on key POPs-related issues.
"At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, governments took a first, halting step forward on this issue by agreeing, in principle, that actions were needed to reduce and eliminate POPs," said Clifton Curtis, Director, WWF-US Global Toxics Program. "Six years later, it's *showtime' here in Montreal. As the curtain rises, the challenge is to turn promises and high sounding rhetoric into concrete, binding measures that will eliminate POPs in a rapid, orderly, and just manner."
Twelve POPs have been targeted by UNEP for early action, including DDT and 8 other pesticides; two industrial chemicals - PCBs and hexachlorobenzine; and dioxins and furans, unintended but highly toxic byproducts of industrial combustion and chlorine-based bleaching. In addition, negotiators have agreed to develop criteria for adding other POPs to the action list. WWF has prepared a special report on DDT, for release at the meeting on June 30th, using that particular POP to showcase a framework and 'tool kit' for moving away from pesticide-dependent malaria control.
"Most people assume that notorious chemicals like DDT were banned long ago but it is not so," said Julia Langer, Director, Wildlife Toxicology Program, WWF-Canada. "Ultra-nasty, super-long-lived pesticides and industrial pollutants are still being made, used and discharged around the globe. Only firm commitments to phase out POPs will diminish the toxic legacy people and wildlife are exposed to daily."
For WWF, which has joined with a growing cadre of environmental and public health groups in forming the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), the challenge is for governments to stay focused on achieving an effective, expeditiously concluded global treaty regime. Three special working groups are likely to be created to address restricted use and elimination actions for the prioritized 12 POPs; criteria and procedures for adding new POPs; and existing and innovative financial sources and mechanisms to assist developing countries in implementing the proposed new agreement.
Contact: During the POPS meeting, Someshwar Singh (+1.514.953.8295), Judi Levita (+1.416.587.2951), or Lee Poston (+1.514.953.8174).