UNECE aligns its Industrial Accidents Convention with United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals
The seventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents (Industrial Accidents Convention) was held from 14 to 16 November 2012 in Stockholm. At this historic meeting, which also marked the twentieth anniversary of the Convention’s adoption in 1992, countries took a number of important decisions that will steer the Convention’s activities in the coming years.
Parties agreed to begin the process of aligning the Convention with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), which was revised in 2010 to include new hazard categories for chemically unstable gases and non-flammable aerosols. The meeting tasked the Working Group on Development with the revision of annex I to the Convention over the next two years to align it with GHS. The amended annex I should be agreed on at the eighth Conference of the Parties in autumn 2014 and could enter into force by the end of 2015.
Moreover, through the amendment of annex I to the Convention a high degree of consistency with European Union (EU) legislation addressing chemical accidents would be maintained. The new EU Seveso III Directive, finalized in March 2012, will apply from 1 June 2015.
In addition, the Conference of the Parties adopted the Convention’s workplan for 2013–2014, which specifies the work priorities for the next biennium. Besides the implementation of various projects and activities to improve the level of industrial safety in the UNECE region, the workplan foresees support to States in ratifying the Convention’s Protocol on Civil Liability and Compensation for Damage Caused by the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents on Transboundary Waters. The Protocol was adopted on 21 May 2003 and signed by initially 22 (now 24) States, but is not yet in force because only one Party (Hungary) has ratified it. Once in force, the Protocol will give individuals affected by the transboundary impact of industrial accidents on international watercourses (e.g., fishermen or operators of downstream waterworks) a legal claim for adequate and prompt compensation.
At the meeting Parties also reviewed implementation of the Convention, the work of the Convention’s Bureau and activities carried out within the Convention’s Assistance Programme in order to draw conclusions for the future. Parties further adopted a sustainable financial mechanism that should help assure adequate voluntary contributions for the work under the Convention.
The decisions taken at the seventh Conference of the Parties will further strengthen the implementation of the Convention and help countries to prevent, prepare for and respond to industrial accidents, particularly those that can have transboundary effects. The Convention’s achievements in improving the level of industrial safety in the UNECE region over the past 20 years are summarized in an anniversary publication: Twenty years of Prevention, Preparedness and Response, available online from http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=31253.
Notes to editors
The 1992 Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents is designed to protect people and the environment against industrial accidents. The Convention aims at preventing accidents from occurring, or reducing their frequency and severity and mitigating their effects if required. To date there are 40 Parties to the Convention, which include, besides the European Union (EU) and 25 of the EU member States (without Ireland and Malta), Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Switzerland and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
More information about the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals can be found at: http://www.unece.org/trans/danger/publi/ghs/ghs_welcome_e.html.