New treaty body on pollution registers established
The first meeting of the governing body of the 2003 Kiev Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR), which entered into force on 8 October 2009, concluded in Geneva yesterday. The Parties to the Protocol committed to achieve full and effective implementation of the Protocol and called on Signatories and other interested States to accede to the instrument. The meeting culminated in the adoption of a declaration and set of decisions providing the foundation for the future work under the Protocol.
The PRTR Protocol was drawn up under the auspices of the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, known as the Aarhus Convention. However, the Protocol is open to States that are not Parties to the Convention. It is also open to accession by States from outside the UNECE region. Thus, despite its important link to the Aarhus Convention, the Protocol has some of the characteristics of an independent treaty with a potentially global scope.
In an opening address to the meeting of the Parties, Ján Kubiš, UNECE Executive Secretary, underlined the importance of the Protocol as a tool for promoting greater transparency: “The Protocol establishes a new international benchmark in securing public access to information on threats posed to our environment by toxic emissions,” he said. “It will enable ordinary citizens, simply using the Internet, to find out about the major sources of polluting emissions in their immediate neighbourhoods.”
He noted that most of the Protocol’s 24 Parties were from countries with well- developed economies and highlighted the importance of providing technical and financial support to countries with economies in transition interested in developing PRTRs in line with the requirements of the Protocol.
Under the chairmanship of the Minister for the Environment of Belgium’s Walloon Region, Mr. Philippe Henry, the Protocol’s Meeting of the Parties adopted a declaration and a set of decisions establishing the main institutions and procedures to ensure the effective implementation of the Protocol, including rules of procedure, a compliance mechanism, a system of reporting on implementation, a scheme of financial arrangements and a work programme. The compliance mechanism follows the approach used for the compliance mechanism of the Aarhus Convention, whereby any member of the public may trigger a review of compliance by a compliance review body by submitting a complaint.
The Meeting also established an intergovernmental working group and elected a Bureau to oversee the functioning of the work programme between the sessions of the Meeting of the Parties. The Bureau is made up of representatives of Belgium (Chair), Norway (Vice-Chair), United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Vice-Chair), Czech Republic, Spain, Sweden and the European Commission (representing the European Union).
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Note to Editors
Established under the auspices of the UNECE, the PRTR Protocol requires each Party to establish a publicly accessible national register containing information on the releases and transfers of pollutants from certain potentially polluting activities, including chemical plants, power stations, oil and gas refineries, mining operations and waste management installations. Companies in these sectors are required to report annually, and on a facility-specific basis, on emissions to the environment and transfers to other facilities. The pollutants covered by the Protocol include a wide range of toxic and/or polluting substances, including greenhouse gases, ozone depleting substances, heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants.
The following 23 States, as well as the European Union, are Parties to the Protocol: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Austria ratified the Protocol on 23 March 2010 and will become a Party on 21 June 2010.