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Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution

The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution was signed in 1979 and entered into force in 1983 and contains eight protocols. Parties to the Convention commit to limit, reduce and prevent air pollution, including long-range transboundary air pollution, by developing policies and strategies and exchange information, consultation, research and monitoring.

The Convention has its own compliance committee, called Implementation Committee (IC). States are obliged to report annually to the Convention and the secretariat refers to the countries which do not meet their targets. Self submission by countries not meeting their obligations is also possible. In general, countries are very keen to explain what the problems are and often it is the Parties who endorse the decisions of the IC at the COP meetings.

The text of the Convention refers to air pollution and transboundary air pollution. In reality the Convention only applies to transboundary air pollution, thus respecting the sovereign rights of the parties which deal with their internal air pollution through domestic legislation.

IC can invite countries to take the necessary steps to comply with the obligations. So far there is an average of six to eight cases per year and this could increase. In particular Spain and Greece are two countries with major problems in meeting their obligations in the later protocols. In the last protocol the targets have been calculated for each country separately, while in previous protocols the targets were equal for all parties. In the case of Spain and Greece, the obligations were very relaxed before, but in the most recent protocol, the EU regulation is used as a basis. Spain and Greece claim they are respecting the limits of the early protocols.

The European Commission is working on the new National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) directive. The implementation and transposition of the EC directives in the EU gives the Air Convention important information on how the EC is going to implement. The USA and Canada are parties to the Convention while there is a lack of participation from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In particular, parties from Central Asia are not very active: some did not ratify the Convention and its protocols; issues like capacity building are also problematic, as well as the lack of resources. As far as the Convention is concerned, an action plan for capacity building was set up and convention parties are trying to engage each other on the implementation side.

The Convention has a common but differentiated approach: in other words a regional approach as an alternative to world wide conventions. It suffers from enforcement and compliance problems, that usually occur with framework conventions.

Other problems mentioned by the Secretariat include the lack of contacts with other secretariats; this depends on the self initiatives of the secretariats, the single conventions and on the issues tackled by them, i.e. biodiversity convention and links with United National Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) conventions (indicators, agriculture, biofuels, etc)

Within the air convention the work is shared by the parties and several task forces (sixteen-seventeen of them) are lead by parties that organize meetings and workshops as well as produce related documents. Reporting on emissions used to be collected by the Secretariat. Last year a centre was set up in Austria, which is a contact point for submitting the emissions data.

The secretariat of the Air Convention is composed of four professionals.

Organisation website ( Webpage - www.unece.org )

 
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