Sintra agreement parties work towards zero emissions

Commitment to continuous reductions in hazardous waste discharges and substantial reductions in radioactive waste discharges into the north east Atlantic was reached by the European Commission and the 14 member states at a recent meeting of the OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment.

The decisions represent the first move toward implementing the Sintra agreement, reached last year. The Sintra agreement compels Ospar contracting parties, which include member states and the EC, to achieve close to zero emission levels of hazardous and radioactive waste discharges into the north east Atlantic.

Meeting in Hull, UK, Ospar representatives also closed a loophole in their programme to protect the north east Atlantic from environmental impacts from the offshore oil and gas industry. “Now, you can’t just dump stuff into the ocean and call it a reef,” explains Simon Reddy, political advisor for Greenpeace International. In future, all artificial reefs must be built on land. Reddy believes that this stipulation will put an end to oil and gas platform dumping.

Individual countries have taken on the duty of developing methods to reduce hazardous waste discharges and reporting back to Ospar. Eleven of the 15 chemicals on Ospar’s priority list of hazardous substances have been allocated to member countries, including PCBS, PAHs, mercury and lead. The four remaining substances awaiting assignment to a “rapporteur” country are: polychlorinated dibenzodioxins; polychlorinated dibenzofurans; hexachlorocyclohexane isomers (or lindane); and cadmium.

With the majority of EU states having signed the Sintra agreement, it is expected that the Sintra commitment to close to zero emissions on hazardous and radioactive wastes will be incorporated into the EU Water Framework Directive. Ospar agreements, including Sintra, are legally binding.

Ospar will publish a Quality Status Report summarising the whole of the north east Atlantic in 2000. It will be the first report to review in detail the environmental impacts on an ocean.

The 14 nations that make up Ospar, along with the EC, are: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

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