UN/ECE to force companies to report on their pollution

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE) has given the go-ahead for work to start on a new law requiring companies to declare their pollution.

The new legislation is expected to require countries to develop pollution inventories known as pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTR’s). Potentially polluting companies will be required to regularly report on their emissions of certain substances, as well as on their transport for treatment or disposal.

“PRTRs are powerful and cost-effective tools for systematically bringing information on emissions into the public domain,” said Mr Kaj Barlaund, Director of the UN/ECE Environment and Human Settlements Division. “This creates public pressure to reduce pollution.”

Part of the Aarhus Convention – the UN/ECE convention on access to information and justice in environmental matters, PRTRs have already been successfully taken up in the US (see related story), and during its first decade, reporting companies reduced their emissions by one half, preventing the release into the environment of over 600,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals, according to the UN/ECE.

“PRTR is a win-win-win solution,” said Barlund. “Governments, industry and the public can all benefit from PRTRs. And most important, the environment wins too.”

The new PRTR legislation is expected to be ready for adoption at the Fifth Ministerial Conference in the ‘Environment for Europe’ series, scheduled to take place in either 2002 or 2003. Non-governmental organisations and business interests will be invited to participate in an intergovernmental working group. Once up and running, the pollution reports are expected to be available on the internet.

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