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What Happened at POPRC4: reviewing chemicals proposed for listing of the Stockholm Convention

The Stockholm Convention POPs Review Committee (POPRC) met for the fourth time from 12 – 17 October in Geneva to make important decisions on candidates for addition to the Convention.

03.11.2008 |Ipennetwork

The Stockholm Convention POPs Review Committee (POPRC) met for the fourth time from 12 – 17 October in Geneva to make important decisions on candidates for addition to the Convention

POPRC4 featured extremely bitter fighting due to the nomination of endosulfan and the presence of both India and China as Members of the Committee. The behavior of the Indian delegate could only be described as outrageous. The fighting resulted in numerous live phone calls with the UNEP Legal Advisor and finally the endosulfan matter was decided by two votes; an unheard of procedure at UN meetings. India indicated it intends to take a complaint about the voting on endosulfan to the COP.

The extreme nature of the fighting over endosulfan illustrates a deeper concern about the Convention: whether there is sufficient political will to tackle living chemicals. Addressing the legacy issues of dead chemicals is vital, but without real action on currently produced and used substances; we will have treaties full of dead chemicals.

The principal results of POPRC4 were:

  • Four more substances were recommended for listing in the Convention without exemptions. This means that COP4 will decide on adding nine new POPs to the treaty in May 2009 (see below).
  • Endosulfan passed to the next stage of evaluation after a bitter fight and two unprecedented votes.
  • Two substances were delayed for one year: SCCPs and HBCD
  • Three new working groups were established that are of interest to NGOs: alternatives, toxic interactions, and endosulfan
  • Conflict of interest could undermine the integrity of the POPRC

All together, the POPRC will recommend nine substances for listing in the Convention at COP4. It will be very important for us to organize ourselves in preparation for the meeting. The substances are:

  • Alpha hexachlorocyclohexane (Alpha HCH); Annex A; no exemptions
  • Beta hexachlorocyclohexane (Beta HCH); Annex A; no exemptions
  • Chlordecone; Annex A; no exemptions
  • Hexabromobiphenyl (HBB); Annex A; no exemptions
  • Octabromodiphenyl ether (OctaBDE); Annex A; no exemptions
  • Pentachlorobenzene (PeCB); Annex A and Annex C; no exemptions
  • Pentabromodiphenyl ether (PentaBDE); Annex A; no exemptions
  • Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS); Annex A or B; numerous exemptions
  • Lindane; Annex A; pharmaceutical exemption for lice and scabies

Proposed key actions for COP4 include:

1. Concise information on all new POPs candidates

2. Focused chemical campaigns on Lindane (and isomers), PFOS, PeCB, and OctaBDE

3. Endosulfan materials or possible side-event on its POPs characteristics including toxicity

4. Strengthened conflict of interest guidelines
could not produce them. The Indian delegate frequently started talking without asking the contact group chair (Ricardo Barra of Chile) for the floor. This resulted in yelling from other delegates and later scolding from the Secretariat. During the meeting, representatives of Hindustan Industries (State-owned endosulfan producer) and Excel Crop Care (principal endosulfan producer in India) constantly talked to the Indian delegate, disrupting the meeting. After other legal challenges from India, the POPRC Chair had to call in the UNEP Legal Advisor two more times for consultation.

At the final discussion on endosulfan, the Indian delegate accused the EU of conflict of interest and demanded that the Annex D criteria include field data and fingerprinting, instead of “fancy science” i.e. modeling. The Chair patiently explained that Annex D considerations did not require this type of data. The Chair also threatened to report the India delegate to his government for obstructive behavior. Czech Republic, Mexico, Switzerland, Japan, Thailand, and Burkina Faso pushed for moving endosulfan to the next step of evaluation. India and China rejected the proposal.

Finally the stalemate was broken when Sweden proposed a vote on the matter. Thailand, Morocco, Korea, Mauritius, France, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Japan, Honduras, Mexico, Chile and Syria supported the proposal to vote to allow endosulfan to proceed to the next of evaluation. India and China refused to vote. Germany (Chair), Ghana, and Sierra Leone abstained from voting. All the rest of the Committee voted in favor of moving ahead. Not a single member voted against the proposal. Immediately after the vote, observers from Argentina and USA condemned the action.

All together, the result moves endosulfan ahead to detailed consideration of its POPs characteristics in Annex E.

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