|MONTREAL - June 29 - World Wildlife Fund today urged governments at the
start of the treaty negotiations on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to be tough in
dealing with the growing stock of dangerous chemicals being released into the environment.
The UNEP-sponsored talks (29 June - 3 July) are the first attempt in history to ban a
class of toxic chemicals on a global basis. More than 100 governments, UN officials and
over 50 NGOs will put forward their opening positions on key POPs-related issues, with the
goal of a legally binding treaty by 2000.
"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.
World Wildlife Fund, known worldwide by its panda logo, leads international efforts to
save life on earth. Between now and the year 2000, WWF, through the Living Planet
Campaign, will engage the global community to take bold action on behalf of the worlds
wildlife and wild places.