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Monday, February 3, 2014

Multi-lateral Environmental Agreements you should know about! Part 2

As was stated in the previous article Multilateral Environmental Agreements or MEA’s are a means for countries to work collaboratively to tackle or solve global environmental issues. It is also a way for these countries to be accountable since most of these agreements are legally binding. 

The Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB) and the UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification) were previously highlighted. A few other important conventions to which St. Lucia is party to will now be highlighted; these include: 

Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer 
The ozone layer is made up of three oxygen molecules and its main function is to absorb the Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, thus protecting the Earth (including humans, animals, and plants) from its harmful influence. Less ozone means greater exposure to UV rays which can cause skin cancer, eye damage, change in climate etc. 

However, ozone is considered to be an important atmospheric pollution liquidator, i.e. its atoms attract harmful chemical substances from the atmosphere (for example, methane, nitric oxide, carbon monoxide, etc.) and react with them, thus providing the creation of a new compound harmless to the environment. 

The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer is a Multilateral Environmental Agreement. It was agreed upon at the Vienna Conference of 1985 and entered into force in 1988. It acts as a framework for the international efforts to protect the ozone layer. However, it does not include legally binding reduction goals for the use of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), the main chemical agents causing ozone depletion. These are laid out in the accompanying Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol seeks to phase out the use of ozone depleting substances (ODS) – CFCs by 2010, methyl bromide by 2015 and hydrochloroflorocarbons (HCFCs) by 2040.

 This phase out will be achieved by restrictions in trade in ODS through an import/export licensing system and the phase out of CFC production facilities. St. Lucia became party to this convention on the 28th of July, 1993.

The Ramsar Convention 
 The Ramsar Convention (The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat) is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands, i.e., to stem the progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands now and in the future, recognizing the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value. It is named after the town of Ramsar in Iran where it was adopted on February 2nd 1971.

Wetlands which includes; marshes, swamps, peatlands, mangroves etc. are critical habitats to a wide variety of biodiversity including waterbirds. It is important to note that wetlands also provide a host of ecosystem services that directly benefit people and local communities. For example wetlands are great recreational sites for fishing, bird watching, relaxation, research and don’t forget a natural nursery for the breeding and spawning of many fish. Without wetland save havens many species of fish can become extinct and the fishing industry of many countries can be crippled. 

The Ramsar Convention encourages the designation of sites containing representative, rare or unique wetlands, or wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity. Once designated, these sites are added to the Convention's List of Wetlands of International Importance and become known as Ramsar sites. In St. Lucia there are two Ramsar sites; the Makoté Mangrove and Savannes Bay in Vieux Fort.
Makote Mangrove, Vieux fort

Today with over 160 countries the Convention's member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet. The convention on wetlands came into force for St. Lucia on June 19th, 2002. 

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

This supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity was agreed on 29 January 2000 in Montreal, Canada and entered into force on the 11th of September, 2000. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement which aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health. 

It establishes an advance informed agreement (AIA) procedure for ensuring that countries are provided with the information necessary to make informed decisions before agreeing to the import of living modified organisms or genetically modified organisms into their territory. The Protocol contains reference to a precautionary approach and reaffirms the precaution language of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The Protocol also establishes a Biosafety Clearing-House to facilitate the exchange of information on living modified organisms and to assist countries in the implementation of the Protocol.

Article by: Forestry Department