UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Press Release

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European Community ratifies pollutant right-to-know treaty

Geneva, 3 March 2006 - The European Community has ratified the Aarhus Convention’s Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers,1 thereby committing its 25 member countries to setting up nationwide registers of polluting substances. This will make it easier for the public to get information about pollutants released to air, water and land from specific sites, as well as waste transferred off-site to other locations for disposal or incineration.

Thirty-six governments and the European Community signed the Protocol in May 2003 in Kiev, Ukraine.2

Pollutant release and transfer registers are inventories of pollutants from industrial sites and other sources. In countries that ratify the new Protocol, facilities will be required to report annually on the amounts of certain pollutants they release to the environment or transfer to other facilities. The information will then be placed on a public register. Where similar registers exist, the public disclosure of information about pollutant releases has led firms to improve their environmental performance.

While the Protocol focuses mainly on pollutants coming from factories, it also provides a framework for reporting on pollution from smaller, widespread sources such as traffic, agriculture and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Under a regulation adopted in January 2006 to implement the Protocol, the European Commission and the European Environment Agency will establish the first European Union-wide pollutant release and transfer register. The first reports on pollutants being released or transferred in European Union countries will be published in 2009.

The Protocol will enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the sixteenth instrument of ratification by a member State of the United Nations. Ratification of the Protocol by the European Community is additional to, and distinct from, ratification by its member States.

For further information, please visit www.unece.org/env/pp/prtr.htm or contact:

Mr. Michael STANLEY-JONES
Environmental Information Management Officer
Aarhus Convention Secretariat
UNECE Environment, Housing and Land Management Division
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Phone: +41 (0)22 917 24 42
Fax: +41 (0)22 917 06 34
E-mail: public.participation@unece.org

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1 The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) seeks to promote greater transparency and accountability among government bodies by guaranteeing public rights of access to environmental information, providing for public involvement in environmental decision-making and requiring the establishment of procedures enabling the public to challenge environmental decisions. The Aarhus Convention was adopted in the Danish city of Aarhus in June 1998 and entered into force in October 2001. The Convention has 39 Parties.

2 The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers was adopted at an extra-ordinary meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention on 21 May 2003, where it was signed by the following countries: Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, and by the European Community.

Ref: ECE/ENV/06/P02