Head of the United States Delegation to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Negotiations, INC-5
Johannesburg, South Africa, December 10, 2000
Today in Johannesburg, negotiators from around the world concluded the first global treaty to address the serious threat to human health and the environment caused by the most toxic chemicals and their unintentional byproducts. The United States is very pleased with the result. This treaty will help us rid the globe of a class of pernicious chemicals which contaminate people and wildlife far from where they are produced and used. These negotiations will for the first time provide an international framework for strong, realistic and effective measures to reduce and eliminate these extremely dangerous chemicals. Our children and the world environment will benefit due to our collective efforts to address the problem of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
The United States has taken aggressive domestic action on all of the POPs chemicals, as have most developed countries. However, the characteristics of POPs are such that global action is required to stop the harm these chemicals wreck on people and nature. The challenge we face in eliminating the use of POPs will require work on many levels involving local communities, governments and international organizations, particularly the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which will assist in POPs reductions in developing countries. Science can show us the way, but the commitment to eliminate POPs, which know no borders, comes from a shared concern over human wellbeing and a sustainable global environment.
One of difficult issues we faced in these talks was establishing the technical and financial mechanisms that developing countries and countries with economies in transition can call upon to meet their obligations. The primary financial mechanism in the agreement is the GEF, which will work with donor governments and other institutions to fund POPs reduction and elimination projects around the world. The U.S. can use this new mechanism to assist developing countries to reduce the use of toxic chemicals, which would otherwise find their way to our shores. Our environment will be safer, and our children will lead healthier lives, as a result.
The United States recognizes that the Convention's control obligations need to be carefully designed to ensure that all countries can meet them. I believe we achieved this goal by working together with a common purpose to arrive at an ambitious and realistic treaty for the good of all. Every dollar we in the U.S. contribute to these efforts will be money well spent. When we help eliminate DDT in Latin America, or chlordane in Africa, we will be helping our own environment at home, as well.
Another issue raised at these negotiations was the role of precaution. The United States believes that the concept of precaution fully informs this treaty. The agreement recognizes that there are a set of chemicals so dangerous that they must be controlled and eliminated through a global effort. It also has a flexible, science-based process to add chemicals to the list. With mutual dedication and through extensive and sometimes tense deliberations over several days, the United States joined with the European Union and many developing countries to shape a consensus on precaution that all could support. Precaution will be an integral part of -- and not separate from -- the overall scientific process for considering the addition of new POPs. Environmentalists should like this treaty, industry should be able to work with it, and the people of the world need it. Thank you.
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