Decisive leadership in the Senate and strong signals of support from the White House could lead to ratification of the Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions before the end of the year. Without popular pressure, however, neither is likely to happen.
The Senate must produce a version of the implementing legislation for the two conventions that ensures appropriate transparency and public notification, effectively meets treaty obligations and, in the case of the Stockholm Convention, allows a streamlined process for adding new chemicals that follows the lead of decisions taken by the countries that have ratified the convention--the "Conference of Parties." Under the convention, an international Scientific Review Committee will be established to recommend bans on additional chemicals. The Conference of Parties will consider these recommendations and come to agreement on any list expansion. To fulfill its treaty obligations, the U.S. must have a domestic program in place to rapidly implement decisions made under the treaty.
Once the Stockholm Convention is ratified, each national government will develop an implementation plan outlining how it will meet the treaty objectives. Many countries are initiating national implementation plans even before the convention comes into force; in developing countries, these early efforts are supported by interim funding for convention implementation through the Global Environment Facility. Some European countries, such as Finland, are moving forward with implementation even before the treaty comes into effect. To demonstrate a commitment to treaty implementation and to move forward with the treaty objectives, the U.S. should immediately initiate the development of a national implementation plan.
The primary focus of a U.S. national implementation plan should involve moving toward the elimination of POPs byproducts. Dioxins and furans pose a tremendous health risk, but strategies that support their elimination are strongly opposed by representatives of the chlorine and incineration industries.
Public interest groups tracking Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reviews of dioxins assert that the agency's analysis is based on methods inferior to new analytical tools developed in Europe for long-term monitoring of dioxins. The EPA's recommendations to date generally focus on end-of-the-pipe controls and minimization rather than the materials-substitution policies mandated by the Stockholm Convention. In addition, the EPA is not likely to recommend phasing out incineration, a major source of dioxin contaminants in the United States. An effective U.S. national implementation plan must develop an aggressive strategy to reduce and eliminate dioxin emissions in America.
The EPA's recommendations regarding dioxins will also influence the national implementation plans of Canada and Mexico. …