Citizens' Environmental Rights Affirmed Across Europe
Posted to the web: June 26, 1998
By Alexandru R. Savulescu
AARHUS, Denmark, June 26, 1998 (ENS) - Progress toward environmental
protection and environmental democracy across Europe was achieved this
week at the Fourth Pan-European Conference of Environment Ministers
that ended here Thursday. The next Europe-wide meeting of environment
ministers will not take place until the year 2002.
Representatives of 52 countries and the European Union (EU) reaffirmed
their commitment to cooperate on environmental protection in the UN
Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE) region.
Thirty-six countries and the EU adopted the first ever-international
convention on citizens' environmental rights. The convention gives
citizens access to environmental information, participation in
decision-making and to justice in environmental matters.
According to Svend Auken, Danish Minister for Environment and Energy,
"It will be an important tool providing citizens, researchers,
journalists, grassroot movements and industry with new possibilities
for playing an active role." The new agreement for citizens' rights is
a giant step towards democracy, especially in Eastern Europe.
Most of the countries that did not sign the convention declared their
intention of signing it in the near future. However, the United States
and Canada, also members of the UN ECE, and conference participants,
refused to even take part in the negotiations.
"We are deeply disappointed that the U.S. and Canada have decided to
opt out of what is the UN ECE's boldest venture in strengthening
democratic rights," said Jeremy Wates, of the European Environment
Bureau, based in Brussels, Belgium.
Environmental organizations are also "dismayed at the positions of
certain governments - notably Germany, Russia and to a lesser extent
Turkey - who at almost every opportunity sought to weaken the text and
undermine not only the rights of the public in their own countries,
but in other countries that sign the convention as well," said Wates.
A major failure of the convention, according to Peter Roderick, legal
advisor to Friends of the Earth, was its failure to guarantee the
right of public participation in decisions on genetically modified
POPs AND HEAVY METALS BANISHED
Delegates signed two Aarhus Protocols: one that aims to reduce
pollution with three heavy metals: lead, cadmium and mercury, and the
other to get rid of 16 persistent organic pollutants (POPs) from the
categories of industrial chemicals, pesticides and by-products and
contaminants. The protocols, signed by 32 governments including the
U.S., Canada and the EU, ban the production and use of some products,
and lay down severe restrictions on the use of others. They establish
stringent limits for emissions, and suggest best available techniques.
Heavy metals as cadmium can cause blood disorders in humans and affect
vital organs. Mercury, absorbed by fish from lakes in the Nordic
countries and North America, when eaten impairs neurological functions
in children below school age. Heavy metal accumulation is a stress
factor for forest vitality; exposed birds and mammals risk
POPs are highly toxic and persistent organic substances. They are
associated with a wide range of effects on wildlife and humans,
including birth and developmental abnormalities, cancers, and reduced
resistance to infections.
The signing of the POP Protocol at Aarhus is particularly important,
as it can further the negotiations towards a global agreement on POPs,
which start on June 29 in Montreal, Canada.
LEADED PETROL SOON A THING OF THE PAST
Thirty countries are ready to meet an earlier date for final phaseout
of added lead in petrol than required by the Protocol. "The actions
taken will have immediate and direct benefits to all citizens,
especially for the health of our children," said Alan Hecht, deputy
assistant administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Phasing out lead in petrol by 2005 is not a goal beyond reach, since
two thirds of all petrol sold today in Europe is already unleaded. All
petrol sold in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Slovakia and Sweden
is unleaded. The greatest challenge for the countries lagging behind
will be upgrading and restructuring oil refinery techniques, to adapt
to unleaded production, including financing of such changes. It will
cost around one to three US cents more per liter to produce unleaded
EASTERN EUROPE'S SPECIAL NEEDS
Financing is already a problem for Eastern Europe, as Western grants
and loans for environmental investments have declined since 1994.
Investments of roughly US$132 billion are needed by the 10 countries
wishing to enter the European Union in order to comply with key EU
Directives that are a prerequisite to accession.
Much needs to be done to attract foreign direct investment in Eastern
Europe, as liabilities of the past, for instance chemical deposits,
are not yet clearly defined. Pollution and resource intensity (use of
energy per unit of production) are still several times higher the than
in the more developed countries.
In order to increase energy efficiency in Eastern Europe, the Aarhus
conference endorsed a Policy Statement intended to benefit both the
environment and economic development. It provides for dismantling
environmentally harmful subsidies by creating economic incentives, and
by promoting efficiency in a wide range of technologies and sectors.
BIODIVERSITY MOVED TO THE FOREFRONT
The ministers emphasized that importance must be attached to the
concept of "nature" in all environmental issues, as biodiversity is a
priceless part of the natural heritage in Europe, ensuring social and
>From now on, issues of biological and landscape diversity must be
integrated into the work of all ministries, rather than be restricted
only to the environmental ministries in each country.
This untraditional approach heavily depends on "national commitment,"
commented Romica Tomescu, Romanian Minister of Waters, Forests and
HISTORY OF "ENVIRONMENT FOR EUROPE"
The "Environment for Europe" process, started in the Czech City of
Dobris in 1991, under the auspices of the UN ECE, comprises member
countries from Europe and North America. The main purpose of the
process was to help facilitate restoration of the environment of
An overall environmental action plan for Eastern Europe was adopted in
the Swiss town of Lucerne, in 1993. As a result, Western countries
financed 110 environmental projects to a value of approximately US$600
Before Aarhus, the last important benchmark of the "Environment for
Europe" Conference was the adoption in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1995, of
the Pan-European Strategy for Biological and Landscape Diversity. The
strategy aims to ensure that the economic reconstruction of Eastern
Europe does not lead these nations to repeat the environmental
mistakes made by the Western European countries.
---------- Copyright c 1990-1998 Environment News Service (ENS) Inc.
All Rights Reserved ENS is exclusively hosted and distributed by the
50. 50. 50. 50. 50. 50. 50. 50. 50. 50.
Ingyenes. Rendelheto ekezetesen is ). Automatikusan
B O C S F o r d i t o http://BOCS.HU
= = = = = = = = = = = =
- - - 50. szam - - - (III. evf. 1998 jun. 26.)
TARTALOM (24 ezer leutes)
E szamunk a Krisztusi Szolidaritas (Christian Solidarity International -
CSI) nemzetkozi emberjogi- es segelyszervezet juniusi kiadvanyabol kozol
ket forditast Tibetrol es Pakisztanrol. (Akinek nem elerheto a
http://bocs.hu weblapon levo internetes valtozat, annak a magyar papir-
valtozat ingyenesen kerheto a 1242 Bp. Pf. 291. cimen.) A szervezet
tiltakozo lapokat is keszit, megkonnyitendo azok dolgat, akik
valamit tenni az olvasott ugyben. A CSI kiadvany ket jelmondata:
"A vallasszabadsag megfekezi az eroszakot."
"Az emberi jogok oszthatatlanok."
Uj rovatunk az Agora elektronikus ujsag heti tartalomjegyzeke.
1. Tibet: Tiltott fold (kinai nuklearis szennyezes a Vilag Tetejen)
2. Pakisztan: "Ne merd keresztenynek hivni magad!"
3. Kornyezeti neveles: "Geo-okologia". Evolucios megkozelites
4. Gaia Sajtoszemle tartalomjegyzek
5. Agora tartalomjegyzek
A BOCS Forditoszolgalat alternativ idegennyelvu anyagok szemleje.
BOCS Alapitvany, 8003 Szfvar, Pf.7. Fax: +36-22-343823.
Orommel vesszuk, ha media e-mail cimeket tudsz kuldeni, kulonosen ha
konkret szerkesztonek, riporternek, ujsagironak figyelmebe tudod
es tovabbitod a BOCS Forditot, hiszen elsosorban nekik keszul.
Elore is nagyon koszonjuk, ha fol tudod tenni egyetemi vagy mas e-mail
faliujsagra, hozza illo listserverre. Kerunk ertesits ezekrol.
Azt is orommel vesszuk, ha figyelmunkbe ajanlasz, hozzank tovabbitasz
szemlezni erdemes okologiai, beke- es egyeb alternativ mozgalmi, fontos,
mediabol megis hianyzo anyagokat, vagy akar ismertetest kuldesz kedvenc
idegennyelvu lapod cikkeirol, amit szivesen latnal a BOCS Forditoban.