Rotterdam Convention - UPSC Notes - Environment - Thought Chakra

Rotterdam Convention – UPSC Notes – Environment

The Rotterdam Convention, established by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in 1998 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, aims to foster shared responsibility in the global trade of hazardous chemicals. The convention’s secretariat operates from Geneva, Switzerland. The Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure, mandated by the Convention, enforces essential legal obligations. This article provides insights into the Rotterdam Convention, valuable for preparing the Environment Syllabus for the UPSC Civil Service exam.

Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure

  • Key Clause (1998 Rotterdam Convention):
    • Emphasizes the legal obligation for parties to obtain and communicate decisions before importing substances listed in Annex III of the Convention.
  • Importing Procedures:
    • Parties must ensure compliance with judgments on their imports.
    • 52 chemicals in Annex III require adherence to the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for trade.
  • Decision Guidance Document (DGD):
    • Prepared for each chemical in Annex III.
    • Sent to all Parties involved in the Prior Informed Consent Procedure.
    • Aims to assist governments in assessing risks, enabling informed decisions on import and use, considering local conditions.
  • Decision Publication:
    • Parties decide on allowing future imports for each chemical in Annex III.
    • Secretariat publishes decisions, termed import responses, every six months.
    • Accessible to all Parties involved in the Convention.

Rotterdam Convention – Background

  • Concerns Over Chemical Production and Trade:
    • Rapid expansion in the past three decades has raised worries about hazards from hazardous chemicals and pesticides.
  • Vulnerability of Countries:
    • Countries lacking sufficient infrastructure to monitor chemical import and use are particularly vulnerable.
  • Voluntary Information Exchange Programs (1980s):
    • UNEP and FAO developed voluntary programs to address concerns.
    • In 1985, FAO introduced the International Code of Conduct for Pesticide Distribution and Use.
    • In 1987, UNEP issued the London Guidelines for the Exchange of Information on Chemicals in International Trade.
  • Incorporation of PIC Procedure (1989):
    • In 1989, both organizations collaborated to include the voluntary Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure into the earlier instruments.
  • Risk Assessment and Informed Decisions:
    • Instruments aimed to provide governments with necessary information for risk assessment and informed decisions on the future import of hazardous chemicals.
  • Interim PIC Procedure (1989-1998):
    • In recognition of the importance of addressing international trade in hazardous chemicals, governments agreed to operate the Convention on a voluntary basis as the Interim PIC Procedure between adoption and entry into force.
  • Rotterdam Convention Adoption (1998):
    • The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade was adopted and opened for signature on September 10, 1998, at the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Rotterdam.

What is the Rotterdam Convention?

  • Adoption and Effectiveness:
    • Adopted by a Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 1998.
    • Came into effect on February 24, 2004.
  • Voluntary PIC Procedure Foundation:
    • The Convention was built upon the voluntary PIC procedure established by UNEP and FAO in 1989.
    • Concluded on February 24, 2006.
  • Scope of the Convention:
    • Applies to pesticides and industrial chemicals that are either banned or severely restricted by Parties.
    • The restrictions are imposed for health or environmental reasons and have been notified for inclusion in the PIC procedure.

Rotterdam Convention – Objectives

  • Requires parties to uphold shared responsibilities and foster teamwork in transactions involving specific dangerous chemicals globally.
  • Aims to encourage shared accountability in the global trade of hazardous substances, posing potential harm to both people and the environment.
  • Emphasizes the need to share knowledge about the properties of traded chemicals among participants to promote ecologically responsible usage of these hazardous compounds.

Rotterdam Convention – Members

  • Convention Membership:
    • The convention boasts 163 parties, comprising 158 UN members, the Cook Islands, the State of Palestine, and the European Union.
    • The United States is among the non-member states.
  • India’s Involvement:
    • On May 24, 2005, India joined the Rotterdam Convention.
    • The convention became effective in India on August 22, 2005.

Rotterdam Convention – Provisions

  • The convention encompasses industrial chemicals and insecticides either banned or subject to stringent regulations.
  • Inclusion in Annex III of the agreement is driven by concerns about these industrial chemicals and pesticides.
  • Annex III comprises 52 chemicals, including 35 pesticides (three being extremely hazardous formulations), 16 industrial chemicals, and one substance falling into both pesticide and industrial chemical categories.
  • Annex III may encompass pesticides and chemicals posing risks in poor or transitional economies, in addition to those requiring Prior Informed Consent (PIC).
  • A Decision Guidance Document (DGC) provides comprehensive details about substances listed in Annex III.
  • Member parties have options regarding substances in Annex III:
    • Permit import,
    • Forbid import,
    • Permit import with certain restrictions.
  • Importing nations must make decisions ensuring they do not adversely impact international trade.

Rotterdam Convention – Conference of Parties

  • Article 18 of the Convention establishes the Conference of the Parties (COP) as its governing body.
  • Comprising governments from countries that have accepted, ratified, or acceded to the convention, the COP plays a crucial role in aiding the convention’s implementation through its decisions.
  • The COP conducts reviews and evaluations of the Convention’s implementation, examining chemicals submitted for review by the Chemical Review Committee.
  • It also holds authority over the approval of the convention’s work program and budget for each biennium.
  • The creation of the Chemical Review Committee was decided at the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties.
  • Conferences of the Parties convene approximately once every two years.
  • As the three conventions share a secretariat but maintain legal independence in their activities, they are collectively referred to as the BRS Convention.

Rotterdam Convention – Chrysotile Asbestos and India’s stand

  • Asbestos, a collective term for six naturally occurring minerals, is composed of soft, flexible fibers.
  • Known for its ability to withstand fire, asbestos is also extremely hazardous.
  • Its link to mesothelioma qualifies it as a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) substance.
  • The contentious substance, chrysotile asbestos, is reported to be considered for addition to Rotterdam Convention Annex III.
  • However, as of now, there is no unanimous agreement among the parties to include asbestos in the convention.

India’s Stand

  • In line with the PIC procedure of the Rotterdam Convention, India has objected to the listing of asbestos.
  • Despite the outlawing of asbestos mining in India, the Fiber Cement Product Manufacturer’s Association opposed its inclusion in Annex III during the 9th Conference of the Parties.
  • Their argument focused on the absence of Indian studies demonstrating the health effects of chrysotile exposure.
  • Despite the Ministry of Environment’s suggestion to explore alternatives, the use of asbestos remains widespread in India, prompting efforts by the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) to achieve an asbestos-free India.
  • Several non-governmental organizations publicly criticized Canada’s obstruction of this accession.
  • In a shift, the Canadian government, as announced in September 2012 by Minister of Industry Christian Paradis, no longer opposed the inclusion of chrysotile in the convention.
  • However, at the Rotterdam Conference of Parties in 2015, eight leading chrysotile-producing and exporting nations, including Russia, Kazakhstan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Cuba, and Zimbabwe, voiced their opposition to this move.

Conclusion

  • The Rotterdam Convention secretariat offers technical assistance in risk assessment and management through its industrial chemicals support program.
  • This support program involves a collaborative strategy with the Stockholm and Basel Conventions, the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL), and the UNEP Chemicals and Wastes Branch.
  • The collaborative effort aims to deliver training and capacity-building activities related to risk assessment and management.

FAQs on the Rotterdam Convention

Q1: What is Rotterdam Convention?

Answer: The Rotterdam Convention is an international treaty established to regulate and facilitate the global trade of hazardous chemicals and pesticides. It aims to ensure that countries receiving such chemicals have prior information on their potential risks and can make informed decisions about their importation.

Q2: What is Prior Informed Consent (PIC)?

Answer: Prior Informed Consent (PIC) is a fundamental aspect of the Rotterdam Convention. It is a procedure that obliges exporting countries to obtain consent from importing countries before exporting hazardous chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention. This process enhances transparency and enables informed decision-making regarding the import of potentially harmful substances.

Q3: How many countries are in the Rotterdam Convention?

Answer: As of the latest information, the Rotterdam Convention has 163 parties. This includes 158 UN member countries, the Cook Islands, the State of Palestine, and the European Union. The convention is a globally recognized agreement with widespread participation.

UPSC PYQ Mains

  • What are the impediments in disposing the huge quantities of discarded solid wastes which are continuously being generated? How do we remove safely the toxic wastes that have been accumulating in our habitable environment? (UPSC 2018)

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