Media Release

Environmentalists urge Canada to push for strong international agreement to eliminate POPs

Dec 04 2000

Toronto. Today marks the beginning of a week long of another United Nations' negotiating session in Johannesburg, South Africa where Canada may play a critical role in the success or failure of an international environmental treaty. Over 110 countries are trying to finalize the goals of an agreement to eliminate persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Canada should be a key participant in these negotiations as POPs like DDT and dioxins are a significant risk to its northern communities, environment and the health of susceptible populations. "These negotiations offer an opportunity for the global community to take immediate action on some of the most harmful chemicals used today" said Paul Muldoon, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. Mr. Muldoon was a member of the Canadian delegation for the last two negotiating sessions. Three years ago, the international community agreed that action was needed on POPs because of their risk to human health, as well as birds and animals. POPs persist in the environment for a long period of time, bioaccumulate up the food chain, travel long distances from their original sources, and even at very low levels, can pose a serious risk to human and wildlife populations. Canada is of particular concern because of the impacts POPs have on the northern communities and the Great Lakes region. Throughout these negotiations, the environmental and health communities from across Canada as well as many members of the International POPs Elimination Network have called for an international agreement that focuses on:

  • the elimination of POPs as an overall goal, especially for POPs such as DDT, dioxins, furans, and PCBs;
  • the need to make precautionary principle actually have an impact on toxic chemical releases, instead of being pretty words in the introduction of the treaty;
  • a process to identify and list other POPs for action. This selection process should incorporate the precautionary principle;
  • a financial and technical assistance mechanism that will allow all countries to meet their obligations under the agreement; and
  • an agreement which is not made impotent by international trade agreements such as the WTO.

"Anything less than the goal of elimination of POPs means that the impacts from exposure to POPs on susceptible communities around the world will continue for a long time to come," stated Delores Broten, Executive Director of Reach for Unbleached. Ms. Broten was member of the Canadian delegation for the first two negotiating sessions. The future and the effectiveness of the global treaty is expected to be debated heavily in Johannesburg. "Without resolution to these critical issues, the future of the treaty is threatened," said Mr. Muldoon.Recommendations by member organizations of the Canadian Environmental Network Toxics Caucus were submitted to the Canadian delegation and are detailed in a report prepared by CELA titled, Towards the Development of a Global Treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants: Comments by the Canadian Environmental Network Toxics Caucus towards the Intergovernmental Committee 5 Session in Johannesburg, South Africa. The report is available in French and English. Great Lakes United is part of the Canadian delegation to these negotiations.- 30 - For more information contact:Paul Muldoon/Fe de Leon, Canadian Environmental Law Association (416-960-2284)Delores Broten, Reach for Unbleached (250-935-6992)Biz Agnew, World Wildlife Fund Canada (416-489-4567 ext. 255)Angela Rickman, Sierra Club of Canada (27-11-269-7000 in Johannesburg) / (011-44-77-309-88701 Cell)English version of Executive Summary (pdf).