17 July 2009 A new United Nations pact is set to blow the cover of Europe’s biggest polluters, according to the world body’s Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
The UN Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers – the first-ever legally binding pact on pollutants – requires countries to report every year on the amounts of certain types of pollutants released in the air or transferred to other facilities by industrial sites as well as smaller, widespread sources such as traffic and agriculture. That information will then be listed on the Internet.
The pact – which will enter into force on 8 October, 90 days after France ratified it on 10 July – will help to identify the largest polluters in communities across Europe. Facilities releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases, which amplify global warming, will also be bound by the treaty.
Past experience has shown that public disclosure of information on the release of pollutants has driven companies to improve their environmental performance, and the Protocol will give people in the 36 countries and the European Community, which are party to it, a new weapon with which to lobby for a drop in pollution.
Jan Kubiš, UNECE’s Executive Secretary, described the new international law as “a milestone in the advancement of public access to information about sources of environmental pollution” in the region.
Several parties to the Protocol, including Switzerland and Spain, have already released their data.
The new pact is a protocol to the so-called UNECE Aarhus Convention, or the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, which entered into force in October 2001.
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