Mandate to negotiate amendments to the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (Stockholm Convention), a global treaty under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2004. The Stockholm Convention eliminates or restricts the production, use, import, export, release and disposal of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). There are currently 182 Parties to the Stockholm Convention, including Canada which was the first to ratify the Convention. When the Stockholm Convention was originally adopted, 12 substances were listed. Since that time, the Convention has been amended 3 times for a total of 26 substances currently listed.

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (Rotterdam Convention) promotes a shared responsibility in the international trade of hazardous substances to protect human health and the environment by facilitating information exchange and establishing a Prior Informed Consent procedure (the PIC procedure). Under the PIC procedure, Parties agree not to export listed chemicals to Parties who have stated their refusal for their import. Listing a substance to the Rotterdam Convention does not ban trade of the substance. The PIC procedure currently covers 14 industrial chemicals, 33 pesticides (including 3 severely hazardous pesticide formulations) some of which are still in commerce and being traded.

Environment and Climate Change Canada participates positively in the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC COP-8) and the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (RC COP-8), with the most recent meeting of the COPs in April to May 2017.

Recognizing that domestic action alone cannot eliminate the impacts of chemicals from international sources on Canadians and their environment, Canada is a party to these legally-binding multilateral environmental agreements which promote global action for the sound management of chemicals.

Canada actively contributes to the efforts under these conventions to reduce the release of harmful substances from other countries, many of which can ultimately end up in Canada. Canada implements its international obligations under these agreements through the Chemicals Management Plan and domestic legislation.

At the 2017 COPs, the Canadian delegation engaged in negotiations in support of the listing of all industrial chemicals considered by the Stockholm COP and all pesticides, pesticide formulations and industrial chemicals considered by the Rotterdam COP.

A strategic environmental assessment completed for this initiative concluded that listing the additional substances to the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions will produce important indirect positive environmental effects globally and for Canada. The new listinigns will result:

  • in global action to eliminate or reduce the release of these substances to the environment under the Stockholm Convention; or
  • better informed decision-making for the management of chemicals listed to the Rotterdam Convention

Both will contribute to reducing exposure to human health and releases to the environment.

The Stockholm Convention works to reduce levels of POPs from global sources in order to secure substantial environmental benefits that cannot be attained through domestic actions alone. Under the Convention, Parties are obligated to reduce or eliminate environmental releases from the use, production and disposal of these POPs. POPs can remain in the environment for long periods of time, concentrate in living organisms, and accumulate up the food chain and into humans. Given that POPs can migrate long distances and accumulate in northern climates, the listing of HCBD, SCCPs and c-decaBDE to the Stockholm Convention will result in the reduction of their emissions on a global level.  This is of benefit to Canada as these substances pose a particular risk to those who eat large amounts of fish or marine mammals such as Arctic Indigenous peoples who rely on traditional foods harvested from the local environment.

For many of these substances, Canada has taken domestic actions to reduce exposure. However, the Canadian environment remains a recipient of these substances from other countries. Given their capability for long-range transport from foreign sources, the most meaningful and cost-effective means of reducing Canada’s further exposure to POPs is through international efforts to reduce foreign production and use.

The Rotterdam Convention facilitates information sharing about chemicals amongst the Parties, and obligates the Parties to implement the Prior Informed Consent procedure for the trade of chemicals. Adding the pesticides trichlorfon, carbosulfan and carbofuran, pesticide formulations containing fenthion (fenthion formulations) and paraquat (paraquat formulations), and the industrial chemicals short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs), tributyltin compounds, and chrysotile asbestos to the list of hazardous substances (i.e. Annex III) of the Rotterdam Convention, will help inform the Parties about the environmental and human health risks associated with these substances. This information can be used by the Parties to inform their decisions about the sound management of these chemicals to prevent their release to the environment. The sound management of these chemicals can lead to improved air and water quality at national and global levels.

Potential impact of this initiative on the 2016 to 2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy’s (FSDS) goals and targets was considered. The initiative will indirectly positively impact the safe and healthy communities goal, by reducing risks to Canadians and impacts on the environment and human health posed by releases of harmful substances.

As a northern country, Canada is particularly impacted by POPs, and inhabitants of Canada’s North are at particular risk for POPs exposure which could lead to adverse human heath (including reproductive, developmental, behavioral, neurologic, endocrine, and immunologic) effects. Listing HCBD, SCCPs and c-deca-BDE to the Stockholm Convention will obligate Parties to the Convention to reduce or eliminate their use, production and environmental release, and thereby reduce the risk of human exposure to these POPs.

Listing trichlorfon, carbosulfan, carbofuran, fenthion formulations, paraquat formulations, SCCPs, tributyltin compounds, and chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam Convention makes these substances subject to the information sharing and Prior Informed Consent requirements which help inform the Parties about the environmental and human health risks associated with these substances. The information can be used by Parties in their domestic chemicals management regimes and efforts to protect human health from the potential adverse effects of these substances.

The initiative will support Canada’s domestic and international efforts to achieve sound management of chemicals, which in turn contributes to the transition to a global green economy of sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

Global and domestic environmental monitoring programs, as well as the findings of the global monitoring plan under the Stockholm Convention will, in the medium to long-term, generate data to understand the trends in POPs monitored in the environment relative to current baselines and the efficiency of measures resulting from listings to the Stockholm Convention.

The global monitoring plan for POPs provides a harmonized organizational framework for the collection of comparable monitoring data on the presence of POPs from all regions, in order to identify changes in their concentrations over time, as well as on regional and global environmental transport. Canada is an active contributor to the global monitoring plan, and currently monitors these POPs under the Chemicals Management Plan.

As part of its domestic controls, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change actively monitors exports of chemicals listed to the Rotterdam Convention. This entails receiving export notifications and issuing permits for exports of chemicals listed to the Rotterdam Convention as well as reviewing notifications from potential Canadian exporters and ensuring they have PIC prior to shipment.  

Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada jointly administer the Chemicals Management Plan and any required associated follow-up measures. Follow-up measures under the Chemicals Management Plan are developed and implemented regularly, and are made public as they become available. The results and follow-up measures of Chemicals Management Plan are published and made available to the public via reports, websites and supporting documents.

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