It is encouraging to hear that governments basically agree that POPs are extremely dangerous, requiring urgent actions, said Clifton Curtis, Director, WWF-US Global Toxics Program. But effective follow-through on key issues remains inadequate to the task. These key issues include elimination of POPs production, use and existing stockpiles, real progress in providing adequate alternatives, adequate financial and technical assistance, among others.
In relation to the above key issues, it is also clear that more information is needed in order to develop detailed action plans. Nonetheless, enough information exists for governments to make basic elimination commitments now. At the same time, governments and several UN agencies, including UNEP, WHO, FAO, UNIDO and others agreed at this meeting to work together in compiling updated data and information for consideration and use at the second round of negotiations in February 1999 and thereafter.
The process, so far, does not match the sense of urgency, said Julia Langer, Director, Wildlife Toxicology Program, WWF-Canada. We need an emergency plan to deal with the important stumbling blocks in achieving a legally binding POP Convention by the year 2000. Moreover, we have to ensure that the Convention has teeth. Otherwise, doing away with the toxic legacy people and wildlife are exposed to daily will remain a wish.
WWF believes that the chemical industry must play a major role in the process of POPs elimination. So far, however, the industry has been reserved and reticent in moving forward. They will have to roll up their sleeves and be more forthcoming with essential information, added Ms Langer. Industry's help is crucial to well informed negotiations. For example, it is Canada's industry, not the government, that is the best and most current source of data for a pesticides data-base and a dioxin inventory.
The 12 POPs that have been targeted by UNEP for early action include 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.
Clifton Curtis at +1 514 984 3461,
Julia Langer at +1 416 489 4567 ext. 258,
Judi Levita +1 416 489 4567 ext. 276,
Lee Poston +1 202 778 9536 or
Someshwar Singh +1514 953 8295.