UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Press Release

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New treaty on pollutants enters into force on 8 October

Geneva, 6 October 2009 --

The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers to the UNECE Aarhus Convention, adopted in May 2003 in Kiev enters into force on 8 October 2009. The Protocol will help identify the biggest polluters in communities across Europe, including those spewing greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.

Sixteen countries and the European Community which have already deposited their instruments of ratification with the United Nations Secretary-General will become Parties to the treaty upon its entry into force. By year end, a total of 21 countries are set to become Parties to the treaty. 

The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers requires firms to report annually on releases into the environment and transfers off-site of 86 pollutants, including greenhouse gases, dioxins and heavy metals such as mercury. The information will then be placed on a public register accessible through the Internet. Smaller, widespread sources such as traffic, agriculture and small- and medium-sized enterprises will also be captured in the national pollutant registers. Where registers already exist, public disclosure of information about pollutant releases has led companies to improve their environmental performance.

Firms engaged in international trafficking of hazardous waste must report the name and address of the waste’s receiver (in accordance with article 7 (5)(d)(ii)). The Protocol will thus offer new tools to track the transport of hazardous waste, which is often destined for developing countries.

Ms. Asha-Rose Migiro, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, said the Protocol “marks a milestone in the advancement towards environmental democracy. The Protocol counts 38 Signatories and 21 ratifications in the UNECE region, but many other countries are applying its right-to-know principles and developing pollutant release and transfer registers.”

Jan Kubiš, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, described this new international law as “a key tool for citizens and public authorities to measure and combat environmental pollution. The Protocol, which covers major greenhouse gas emissions, will thus contribute to UNECE's efforts to mitigate climate change in our region.”

The Protocol is open to accession by any U.N. Member State.  Spain is the most recent country to ratify the Protocol, having deposited its ratification on 24 September 2009. 

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

Environmental Affairs Officer
Aarhus Convention Secretariat
UNECE Environment, Housing and Land Management Division
Tel: +41 (0)22 917 24 42
Fax: +41 (0)22 917 06 34
E-mail: public.participation@unece.org

Note to Editors

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 43 Parties.

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 countries listed below.

Status as 5 October 2009
Signatory Ratification
Albania 16 Jun 2009 
Belgium 12 Mar 2009
Bosnia and Herzegovina  
Croatia 14 Jul 2008
Czech Republic 12 Aug 2009
Denmark 13 Oct 2008
Estonia 15 Aug 2007 
European Community 21 Feb 2006 
Finland 21 Apr 2009 
France 10 Jul 2009 
Germany 28 Aug 2007
Hungary 13 Jul 2009
Latvia 24 Apr 2008
Lithuania  5 Mar 2009
Luxembourg  7 Feb 2006
Netherlands 11 Feb 2008 
Norway 27 Jun 2008 
Portugal 8 Oct 2009
Republic of Moldova  
Romania 26 Aug 2009
Slovakia**  1 Apr 2008 
Spain 24 Sep 2009
Sweden 15 Oct 2008
Switzerland 27 Apr 2007
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia  
United Kingdom 31 Jul 2009

* Montenegro succeeded to the Signature of Serbia and Montenegro, thereby raising the number of Signatories to the Protocol to 38.

** Slovakia acceded to the Protocol after the closure of the period of Signature of the Protocol.

To date, the Protocol has been ratified by 22 countries and the European Community (see table above). The Protocol will enter into force on 8 October 2009 in 16 countries, ninety days after the deposit of the 16th State’s instrument of ratification.

For Countries that ratify after the deposit of the 16th State’s instrument of ratification, entry into force will start 90 days after their instrument of ratification has been deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General.

Upcoming dates of entry into force for specific countries in accordance with article 27 (3) of the Protocol:

Hungary – 11 October 2009
United Kingdom – 29 October 2009
Romania – 24 November 2009
Spain – 23 December 2009
Czech Republic - 10 December 2009
Portugal - 6 January 2010

The full text of the Protocol is available in the three official languages of the UNECE (English, French and Russian) at: http://www.unece.org/env/pp/prtr/docs/prtrtext.htm

This page also contains unofficial translations in Spanish, Dutch, Georgian and Macedonian.

Map of Parties and Signatories to the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers – http://www.unece.org/env/pp/PRTRmapf.html

Ref: ECE/ENV/09/P23