Canada to fight third-world pollutants with large donation

In a bid to tackle the harmful effects of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in its Arctic north, the Canadian government has announced funds to curb their use in developing nations.

The government’s environment ministry, Environment Canada, announced on 14 August that it was the first country to establish an international capacity-building fund to deal with POPs and that its C$20 million (US$13.5 million) would be administered by the World Bank.

The announcement to establish the Canada POPs Fund was made by Environment Minister David Anderson and Nancy Karetak-Lindell, the Member of Parliament for the huge Arctic expanse of Nanavut, one of the areas most at risk from POP effects.

“We know that steps taken to reduce or eliminate POPs can lead to measurable environmental improvements,” Anderson said, speaking from Nanavut’s tiny capital, Iqaluit. “This fund together with international agreement on the reduction of POPs will contribute to the protection of the health of Canadians and of the global population as well.”

The fund will provide financial support to a variety of POPs-related projects, which will be tailored for the specific needs of developing countries by the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Global Environment Facility and other multilateral organisations.

“The Northern Dimension of Canada’s Foreign Policy outlines the need for international co-operation in combating threats to the fragile environment of the North,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy. “The Canada POPs fund is part of a global effort to reduce the emission of these dangerous substances and will help other countries to find safer alternatives to these pollutants.”

Although Canada has banned or restricted POPs itself, the far-travelling chemicals get there by multiple cycles of evaporation, transport by air and condensation. It is in Arctic Nanavut, where pollutants are more likely to be trapped by the cold climate’s low evaporation rates, that POPs pose the greatest risk to health. Here, indigenous Inuit, who depend on hunting animals and fishing for their main food source, constitute 85% of the population, and it is this local wildlife which ingests the POPs.

Canada chairs the United Nations negotiating committee currently discussing a global agreement to reduce or eliminate releases of POPs, which fall into three broad categories: certain pesticides such as DDT, chlordane, toxaphene and mirex; certain industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenols; and certain by-products and contaminants such as chlorinated dioxins, furans and polysyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that come from combustion, incineration and certain industrial processes.

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