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Scientists observed in the late1960s that waterborne and airborne pollutants could be transported long distances. That means that an emission in one country or region may influence the environment in other countries and regions, and the conclusion was that separated countries could not handle their environmental problems by themselves. International cooperation is a necessity. 

One way to organize the international cooperation is to set up specific agreements - conventions - as a common base for continuous cooperation. 

The following convention are briefly described below (with links):

Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, 1987

The Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, was agreed upon in Vienna in 1985. The main thrust of the convention was to encourage research, cooperation among countries and exchange of information. Twenty nations signed it in Vienna, but most did not rush to ratify it. The Convention provided for future protocols and specified procedures for amendment and dispute settlement. 

As the experts began to explore for specific measures to be taken, the journal 'Nature' published a paper in May 1985 about severe ozone depletion in the Antarctic. The paper's findings were confirmed by American satellite observations and offered the first proof of severe ozone depletion and making the need for definite measures more urgent. As a result, in September 1987, agreement was reached on specific measures to be taken and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed.

Link: Montreal Protocol 

Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, 1989

In the late 1980s, a tightening of environmental regulations in industrialized countries led to a dramatic rise in the cost of hazardous waste disposal. Searching for cheaper ways to get rid of the wastes, "toxic traders" began shipping hazardous waste to developing countries and to Eastern Europe. When this activity was revealed, international outrage led to the drafting and adoption of the Basel Convention.

During its first decade (1989-1999), the convention was principally devoted to setting up a framework for controlling the "transboundary" movements of hazardous wastes, that is, the movement of hazardous wastes across international frontiers. During the next decade (2000-2010), the convention will build on this framework by emphasizing full implementation and enforcement of treaty commitments.

Link Basel convention

Helsinki commission, HELCOM or Baltic Sea convention, 1992

HELCOM works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental cooperation between Denmark, Estonia, the European Community, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden. The legislative situation of selected hazardous substances for immediate priority action has been surveyed.


OSPAR Commission for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, 1992

The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic ("OSPAR Convention") has been signed and ratified by all of the contracting parties to the Oslo or Paris Conventions (Belgium, Denmark, the Commission of the European Communities, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) and by Luxembourg and Switzerland. It replaces the Oslo and Paris Conventions. The Commission will complete the development of a dynamic selection and prioritization mechanism to select hazardous substances for priority action. In the OSPAR 1998 substances list there are candidates for selection, assessment and prioritization.

Link: OSPAR Convention

Kyoto Protocol, 1997

In 1992 at the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro, the nations of the world acknowledged the global nature of climate change in signing the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). As the name suggests, the Framework Convention is the foundation for the global response to climate change. The FCCC specified that developed countries should bear the primary responsibility for reducing greenhouse gases, and set out a system of voluntary reduction commitments for these countries along with common monitoring and reporting requirements for all countries. 

In 1997 the Convention was given some "teeth" with the signing of the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol encompassed many key decisions, but of most importance was the decision for developed countries to accept emission reduction commitments that would become legally binding when the Protocol is ratified. Subsequent to 1997 negotiations on the rules for implementing the Protocol have continued, although the process was dealt a significant blow in 2001 by the decision of the US to withdraw from the Protocol. It is widely accepted that the Kyoto Protocol is only a small step in the global effort to reduce emissions. The Kyoto protocol was ratified the 15 Feb. 2005, although the United States remains outside this process.

Link: Kyoto Protocol

Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs), 2001

The Stockholm Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife. POPs circulate globally and can cause damage wherever they travel. In implementing the Convention, Governments will take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.

Link: Stockholm Convention