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bringing you the latest news, information and analysis from
international environment and sustainable development negotiations





This page was updated on: 01/13/10



Chemicals Management Media Reports Archives: 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; 2006; 2005; 2004; 2003





Some 320 substances used in plant protection products – including insecticides, fungicides and herbicides – are to be withdrawn from the European market by 25 July 2003. This recent regulation comes as part of the European Commission's new approach to the evaluation of active substances in plant protection products, which aims to improve safeguards to ensure that all such products in use are safe for the environment and human health. Users, wholesalers and retailers of plant protection products will need to be aware of whether the products they use or sell are likely to be withdrawn, so as to prevent them being left with stocks of unusable material.


Link to further information

The Regulation, with the list of the abovementioned 320 substances, is available online at



At a meeting hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Europe, in Geneva from 25-29 November 2002, progress was made in drafting a new UN treaty that will strengthen public access to information on pollution. The treaty – which will be a protocol to the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Ǻarhus Convention) – will make it easier for the public to find information about pollution and its sources through a mandatory system of reporting by companies.


Under the protocol, countries will have to set up national pollution inventories, known as pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs). These inventories will require polluting companies to provide information on releases of certain polluting substances, such as greenhouse gases, dioxins and heavy metals, to a national register accessible and searchable through the Internet. Such registers are already in place in a number of countries, including for example in the US in the form of the Toxic Release Inventory.


At the meeting, negotiators agreed upon the main features of the PRTR system, which would effectively establish internationally recognized minimum standards for PRTRs. These include lists of specific pollutants and polluting activities, and ensuring public access to the data on the register. The protocol will initially focus on information on pollution from large industrial facilities, but negotiators have opened the door to extending the registers to include more diffuse sources, such as pollution from traffic to air and pollution from agriculture to water. The instrument will encourage though not oblige links being made to other types of information, including on genetically modified organisms, radioactive substances, pollutants in products and elements of resource use such as energy and water consumption.


It had already been decided that the protocol should be open to all countries, including those that are not Parties to the parent-Convention and those that are not members of UNECE. NGOs have been critical of the role of the EU for allegedly blocking more stringent rules, while praising the US and Canada both of whom already have extensive inventories in place. The US delegation withdrew from the talks while they were in progress, reportedly in protest at the EU's resistance to more progressive proposals.


A meeting has been scheduled for 27-31 January 2003 to address the remaining contentious issues. The negotiators are under pressure to finalize the protocol swiftly, as it is expected to be ready for adoption by UNECE Environment Ministers when they meet at the fifth "Environment for Europe" Conference in Kiev in May 2003.


Links to further information

Ǻarhus Convention UNECE Environment and Human Settlements Division





Various environmental, public health, and labor groups in the US have joined forces to denounce the US government's efforts to derail proposed chemicals policy reforms underway in the EU. In an open letter to President Bush, more than 50 organizations applauded EU efforts to protect against hazardous chemicals and countered the Bush Administration's claims that the legislation would be bad for US business. The European Commission has proposed a new chemicals policy called REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) to address current gaps in public health and environmental protection against chemicals. The proposals would shift the burden of proof on industry by requiring adequate scientific data as a precondition for selling chemicals – and products – and includes a mechanism for systematically eliminating the most hazardous chemicals in favor of safer alternatives. The Bush Administration has disseminated documents critical of the EU reform proposals, claiming that cost of increased scrutiny would burden US businesses and hinder competitiveness. The public interest groups maintain that the cost of reforms is minuscule compared to billions spent on health care, pollution control, and clean-up from chemical contamination.


Links to further information

Friends of the Earth Press Release, 11 November 2002



The European Chemicals Bureau (ECB) has produced a first list of persistent and bio-accumulative substances that may eventually be classified as chemicals of high concern, requiring authorization in terms of the EU's new REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) policy. Details of the list are provided in the most recent issue of the ECB's newsletter, though the specific substances on it have not yet been identified. Bureau officials have reported that a definitive version will be published following consultation with industry. The list identifies 125 substances from almost 2,700 high production volume chemicals that are registered in the EU. All are either environmentally persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic (PBTs), or are very persistent and very bio-accumulative without necessarily being toxic (vPvBs). How PBTs and vPvBs should be handled under REACH is one of the key issues being debated within the European Commission, as it prepares legislation for a new EU chemicals policy.


Link to further information

European Chemicals Bureau

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