Delegates at the United Nations Environment Program’s Rotterdam Convention accused Canada of “single-handedly” derailing the treaty’s conference in Geneva on Friday in order to keep chrysotile asbestos off a UN list of restricted chemicals.
“I was so shocked,” said conference observer Madhu Dutta of India. “When consensus was emerging, Canada broke its sinister silence. I’m so sure if Canada didn’t raise its objections, we could have gotten consensus,” said Dutta, who works with victims exposed to the cancer-causing chemical. A consensus among countries attending the convention was required to ratify the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos onto a list of hazardous, export-restricted chemicals.
Materials listed on the UN’s Annex III list require “Prior Informed Consent” — meaning before countries export listed goods, they must inform importers of the risks and precautionary measures for safe handling, to which importers must consent.
Canada raised its objection at the 11th-hour to keep the cancer-causing chemical off the list, taking many delegates by surprise.
“I feel hopeless now because Russia and Brazil — major asbestos exporters — are planning to be party members at the next conference in 2013,” said Dutta.
However, three pesticides were added to the Annex III list this year: endosulfan, alachlor and aldicarb, according to UN environment spokesperson, Michael Stanley-Jones.
“When India changed its position, you can tell Canada began to feel uncomfortable,” said Dutta.
India is a major buyer of Canadian asbestos but reversed its position during the latter part of the conference to support the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos onto Annex III, which currently has 43 chemicals listed.
Canada was the only western country and G8 nation to oppose the inclusion. Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Vietnam also opposed.
Canada exports roughly $100 million worth of asbestos a year, mostly from mines in Thetford Mines, Que.
The African delegation also expressed “extreme disappointment” with Canada’s position.
“The Africa Group hereby calls on Canada to put forward to the conference the reasons for their opposition to the listing . . .” read the group’s statement.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl, who is battling lung cancer, recently made an open plea to limit the export of chrysotile asbestos.
“Loggers like me operated some of industry’s largest and most dangerous equipment. I loved every minute of it. Huge and powerful, they fit the personalities of the men of the woods — aggressive, production-oriented, no-nonsense types who didn’t wait around to listen to some do-gooder tell them about the dangers of asbestos. That was a big, big mistake,” he wrote in a recent article in the Globe and Mail during the opening day of the international conference.
However, Chrysotile Institute spokesman Guy Versailles thinks there is not enough research to prove chrysotile is hazardous enough to be added to Annex III.
“Asbestos is dangerous when it’s air blown or in loose products, but not when it’s in cement, sheeting or pipes,” said Versailles from Geneva. “It’s not sufficient to lobby numbers like grenades, we want to see the data.”
Discussions to include Chrysotile on Annex III will be revisited during the next Rotterdam Convention in 2013.© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
what a shame 😦