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U.S. Statement at Meeting on the Stockholm Convention in Punta del Este

Posted: May 9, 2005 Main article: U.S. Officials Participating in Uruguay Conference on Hazardous Chemicals  

Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
Punta del Este, Uruguay
May 5, 2005

Following is the Statement delivered by Claudia A. McMurray, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Head of the United States Delegation to the First Meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, Punta del Este, Uruguay, May 5, 2005.

[Begin Text:]

Mr. Chairman, Ministers, Distinguished Colleagues:

It is a great pleasure to speak on behalf of the United States at this first Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The entry into force of the Stockholm Convention is a landmark event in the global effort to protect the earth’s environment. I join others in thanking the UN Environment Program for its commitment to managing the POPs process over the last decade and the Government of Uruguay for hosting the first Conference of Parties in this beautiful city of Punta del Este.

The United States was a leader in pushing for a global treaty to address the very real risks posed by these highly toxic chemicals. In fact, the proposal to negotiate this agreement was first made in 1995 at the Washington Conference on Land-Based Sources of Marine Pollution, which the United States hosted. We took a leading role and actively participated in and supported the negotiations over the six year period that concluded with the Stockholm Convention. Today, the United States remains as committed as ever to this important global environmental agreement.

In 2001, President Bush strongly endorsed the Stockholm Convention and directed his Administration to work with our Congress to secure the legislative changes required to ratify the accord. The Convention’s ratification continues to be an extremely high priority for this Administration.

Because of our complex domestic legislative process, which involves the work of several important Congressional committees, U.S. ratification has taken longer than anticipated. As a consequence, we regrettably were not able to become a party to the Convention before this meeting. There remains strong and broad-based domestic support for this international agreement in the United States, including from industry, the agricultural community and non-governmental organizations. It is our strong hope that the domestic ratification process will be completed as soon as possible so that the United States can participate as a Party at the next Stockholm Convention Conference of the Parties.

Current science demonstrates that we in the global community were right to develop this agreement. In the United States we continue to see evidence of significant deposition of certain POPs chemicals in remote regions, far from any sources of their production and use. Concentrations of some substances are increasing even though the United States banned or severely restricted the chemicals covered by the Stockholm Convention decades ago. The risks are especially high for our indigenous populations, who rely heavily on certain fish, marine mammal, and wildlife species.

The impacts of these chemicals on the countries and regions where they remain in production and use are even more severe. The problems are particularly acute in developing countries, many of which lack the means to develop and utilize alternatives to several of the POPs chemicals. This situation provides an excellent opportunity for developed and developing countries to work together to address a common concern. The United States has already spent over $20 million assisting several developing countries in building capacity in this area. In addition, the Stockholm Convention itself includes a flexible system of financial and technical assistance for developing countries, using the Global Environment Facility as the interim funding mechanism. We intend to continue supporting these and other efforts to promote the sound management of POPs in those countries that still use them.

While we have been meeting here this week, the United States has worked hard with other countries to ensure that effective scientific and technical procedures are adopted for implementing the agreement. These procedures in reality will form the bedrock for the future of the Stockholm Convention. They will provide the mechanism for protecting citizens throughout the world from the real risks of these dangerous chemicals. This week the Conference of the Parties has been reviewing important guidelines for best available techniques and practices for minimizing the risk posed by POPs, and for the environmentally sound management of wastes. We were pleased to share our technical expertise in the development of these guidelines, including through serving as co-chair of the Best Available Techniques/Best Environmental Practices Experts Group.

In summary, Mr. Chairman, this week we have made a strong start in the effort to eliminate POPs from the globe. We in the United States greatly appreciate the collegial efforts of the countries gathered here this week to implement this important global agreement. We look forward to continued close cooperation in addressing the serious problems associated with the release of POPs.

Thank you.

[End Text.]



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