Our environment is under threat from a number of substances and activities. For example, outdoor (ambient) air may be polluted by exhaust from vehicles; and smoke from burning of household garbage and other wastes. Untreated discharges from residences and industries can contaminate drinking water supplies and reduce the recreational value of the marine environment.
Some of these threats, however, require international action to address them as no one country has the resources or expertise to do so on their own. For this reason, a number of multilateral environmental agreements exist. MEAs are legally binding agreements relating to the environment between three or more states. Some of the MEAs to which Barbados is signatory to include:
* The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste.
* The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
* Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention).
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal aims to protect human health and the environment from harmful effects of hazardous waste. The Convention provides a control system for the transboundary movement of waste; encourages minimisation of hazardous waste generation; and promotes environmentally sound waste management.
The Stockholm Convention seeks to protect human health and the environment from Persistent Organic Pollutants. The Convention requires participating countries to reduce and, where possible, eliminate the production, use and release of POPs. POPs are chemicals that contain atoms of carbon and are hazardous to human health and the environment.
Cartagena Convention is the term used to refer to the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region. It is a comprehensive agreement for the protection and development of the marine environment.
Additionally, there are voluntary agreements such as the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, commonly referred to as SAICM. SAICM is a policy framework for international action on chemical hazards. It is not legally binding. It seeks to ensure that by 2020 chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.
The main benefits of MEAs and voluntary agreements such as SAICM are that they promote cooperation on environmental issues that affect all countries, utilise available resources to the benefit of all Parties and there is access to funding to undertake various projects.
For example, the Environmental Protection Department is currently undertaking a project which aims to identify the necessary actions to effectively implement the GHS in Barbados. The department secured funding for the project from the SAICM. GHS is short for Globally Harmonised Systems of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. It is a method being used by countries around the world to identify the hazards of chemicals and clearly communicate this information to persons who use or handle those chemicals.
All of these agreements and policies work together to protect human health and the environment from the negative impacts of chemicals, ensuring that future generations inherit an environment which is healthy, productive and enjoyable.