Rotterdam Convention and Stockholm Convention
Background of the Rotterdam Convention
Jointly introduced by the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)and the Food and Agriculture and Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Council, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (the Rotterdam Convention) aims to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties bound by the Rotterdam Convention in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals, including pesticides and other industrial chemicals, by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics, providing for a national decision-making process on their import and export and disseminating these decisions to Parties.
One of the principal mechanisms for achieving objectives of the Rotterdam Convention is the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure. Through the PIC procedure, Parties are required to issue import responses to the Secretariaton whether they will allow future import of chemicals listed in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. Exporting Parties are responsible for ensuring chemicals subject to the PIC procedure are not exported against the decision of the importing Party. Addition of chemicals to Annex III is decided at the Conference of the Parties (COP), which meets every two years.
Application of the Rotterdam Convention to Hong Kong
The Rotterdam Convention was adopted on 10 September 1998 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and entered into force on 24 February 2004. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) ratified the Rotterdam Convention on 22 March 2005 and extended its application to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on 26 August 2008.
Background of the Stockholm Convention
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are chemicals that resist degradation, capable of traveling long distances, bioaccumulate in the food chain, thus posing harmful effects to human health and the environment. Introduced by the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (the Stockholm Convention) aims to protect human health and the environment from POPs by eliminating or reducing the release of POPs, which encompass pesticides, industrial chemicals and by-products, into the environment.
The POPs Review Committee (POPRC), which consists of government-designated experts, reviews chemicals for listing in the Stockholm Convention and submits their recommendation to the Conference of Parties (COP) to decide whether to list the chemicals in the Annexes.Parties to the Stockholm Convention are required to take measures to eliminate the trade and intentional production and use of the listed POPs in Annex A of the Stockholm Convention, restrict the intentional production and use of POPsin Annex B and reduce the unintentional production with an ultimate goal of elimination of POPs in Annex C. The twelve initial POPs listed under the Stockholm Convention, which include aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene(HCB), mirex, toxaphene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins(PCDD) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDF), are commonly referred to as the “dirty dozen”.
Application of the Stockholm Convention to Hong Kong
The Stockholm Convention was adopted on 22 May 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden and entered into force on 17 May 2004. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) ratified the Stockholm Convention on 13 August 2004 and extended its application to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on 11 November 2004.
Amendment of the Pesticides Ordinance
While non-pesticide hazardous chemicals under the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions are regulated by the Hazardous Chemicals Control Ordinance (Cap. 595), the amendment of the Pesticides Ordinance (Cap. 133) (the Ordinance) takes effects on 27 January 2014 to effectively cover the scope of pesticides under the two Conventions. Pesticides controlled under the two Conventions are set out in two schedules to the Ordinance (scheduled pesticides) - Schedule 1 lists pesticides under the Stockholm Convention and Part 1 of Schedule 2 for pesticides under the Rotterdam Convention, which may be amended by the Secretary for Environment and Ecology by notice published in the Gazette. Under the Ordinance, the Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation (DAFC) is given powers, including inspection and investigation powers, to implement requirements of the Conventions.
Regulatory requirements for Scheduled Pesticides
The import, export, manufacture, sale, supply, possession, use or transhipment (except air transhipment cargo) of all scheduled pesticides is prohibited except under a Pesticide Permit issued by DAFC. In addition, each shipment of pesticides entering or leaving Hong Kong, excluding shipment in transit or air transhipment cargo, has to be covered by an Import/Export Licence as required by the Import and Export Ordinance (Cap. 60). Furthermore, prior to the exportation or transhipment of pesticides listed in the Rotterdam Convention, exporters or shipping companies should check the import decision of the importing country. Except for pesticides for which import responses have been clearly issued by the importing country, exporters or shipping companies should also furnish a document from the importing country authorizing the importation of the pesticide for the applications of Pesticide Permit and Import/Export Licence.
Both Conventions do not apply to chemicals in quantities not likely to affect human health or the environment which are used for laboratory research, chemical analysis or as a reference standard. In line with the spirit of the Conventions, the Ordinance provides an exemption for scheduled pesticides not exceeding 10g or 10ml that is contained in an individual package or container and is used or intended to be used indoors for laboratory research, chemical analysis or as a reference standard from the Pesticide Permit requirement.Nonetheless, the import and export of such pesticides are still subject to a consignment-based Import or Export Licence under Cap. 60.