The 1979 Geneva Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution
The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution was the first international legally binding instrument to deal with problems of air pollution on a broad regional basis. It was signed in 1979 and entered into force in 1983. It has since been extended by eight specific protocols. The Convention is one of the central means for protecting our environment. It has, over the years, served as a bridge between different political systems and as a factor of stability in years of political change. It has substantially contributed to the development of international environmental law and has created the essential framework for controlling and reducing the damage to human health and the environment caused by transboundary air pollution. It is a successful example of what can be achieved through intergovernmental cooperation.
The history of the Convention can be traced back to the 1960s, when scientists demonstrated the interrelationship between sulphur emissions in continental Europe and the acidification of Scandinavian lakes. The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm signalled the start for active international cooperation to combat acidification. Between 1972 and 1977 several studies confirmed the hypothesis that air pollutants could travel several thousands of kilometres before deposition and damage occurred. This also implied that cooperation at the international level was necessary to solve problems such as acidification.
In response to these acute problems, a High-level Meeting within the Framework of UNECE on the Protection of the Environment was held at ministerial level in November 1979 in Geneva. It resulted in the signature of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution by 34 Governments and the European Community (EC). Besides laying down the general principles of international cooperation for air pollution abatement, the Convention sets up an institutional framework bringing together research and policy.
Text of the Convention