Por: Carlos Álvarez Flores
Mexico has historically been one of the first countries in the world to accept and support global agreements or international agreements that, since 1945, the United Nations Organization promotes in different areas of relations between nations, on issues such as international law, peace, security, economic development, human rights and, of course, regarding the environment and chemical substances.
We have ratified our adherence to treaties, conventions, protocols or agreements since 1989, when the Basel Convention was negotiated at the proposal of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and it entered into force on May 5, 1992. The The objective of this important global agreement is to regulate the transboundary traffic of hazardous waste or toxic waste, applying the "prior informed consent" and also the parties, that is, the nations, are obligated to manage and eliminate their toxic waste in an environmental way. adequate.
Due to the dynamic growth of the world production and trade of chemical substances during the last 50 years, where we can affirm that most nations lack adequate infrastructure to monitor the import and use of thousands of chemical substances, UNEP and the The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) promoted voluntary information exchange programs since the mid-1980s and as a result, after several years of negotiations from 1996 to 1998, the text of the “Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure Applicable to Certain Pesticides and Dangerous Chemical Products Subject to International Trade ”was approved on September 10, 1998, two years earlier than agreed. The Convention entered into force on February 24, 2004.
Once we learned through the excellent text The Silent Spring by the American biologist Raquel Carlson, the serious damage to the health and the ecosystem of toxic pesticides, later called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and once accepted as a serious threat to Human health and the ecosystem, in May 1985, the UNEP Governing Council requested in its decision 18/32 that an international evaluation process be carried out for these chemical substances. After five years of enormous efforts and successful meetings and negotiations in Johannesburg, South Africa, in December 2000, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was adopted on May 22, 2001 and entered into force on May 17 from 2004.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed on June 5, 1992 at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, and entered into force on December 29, 1993. Its objectives are: "the conservation of diversity biological, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable participation in the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. Its general objective is to promote measures that lead to a sustainable future. ” The Cartagena Protocol that regulates the safety of biotechnology, ensuring the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) to avoid adverse risks to biological diversity and human health, and the Nagoya Protocol that regulates the access to genetic resources and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits of their use.
The Montreal Protocol arises from the Vienna Convention for the protection of the ozone layer, which requires us to reduce and eliminate ozone-depleting substances, which originally were the family of refrigerant gases called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are Negotiated since 1987 and entered into force on January 1, 1989. It has been considered the most successful of the global agreements due to the great international collaboration of the parties for the conservation and recovery of the ozone layer.
The Strategic Approach to Comprehensive Management of Chemicals on an international scale, better known by its acronym in English SAICM (Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management) that was approved on February 6, 2006 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, will help us reduce risks to health and the ecosystem with better management of chemical products, both in their use and in their production. And we have the goal of 2020, so that the parties have the necessary instruments to achieve this important objective.
The Kyoto Protocol was approved by 156 countries and rejected by the United States and Australia in 1997, as an instrument to fight global warming and proposed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 5.2 per percent with respect to the 1990 baseline, for 2012. The results obtained were not as expected and the carbon bond market, which was proposed as the best instrument to achieve the objective, did not bear fruit. The consequences that all nations have suffered due to global warming have generated greater global awareness that led us to a new negotiation at the meeting in Paris, France.
The Paris Agreement was signed on December 12, 2015, within the Framework Convention on Climate Change, to "Transform our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development"; “Aware that climate change represents a pressing threat and with potentially irreversible effects for human societies and the planet”, each nation offered its specific and specific GHG reduction goals, which we must meet from 2020 to 2030 , with reviews every five years and whose ratification will be open from April 22, 2016 to April 21, 2017.
In particular, I must refer to the case of the Montreal Protocol where the instrumentation with the private sector, both producers and manufacturers of the refrigerant gases in question, as well as manufacturers of domestic and industrial refrigeration equipment and air conditioners, was otherwise successful. Not so in the case of the destruction of said gases. Unfortunately, we do not foresee an effective control and surveillance system for the workshops and companies dedicated to the collection of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment that are not properly trained or have adequate equipment for the collection and environmentally adequate destruction of these gases.
In the case of the Basel Convention, we cannot say that we are adequately controlling the illegal traffic of hazardous waste, since our borders are practically open, due to the enormous corruption of our customs officials. There is a group of more than 50 companies authorized by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), located throughout the Mexican Republic, especially in the industrial areas in Mexicali, Tijuana and Tecate, Baja California, in Saltillo, Coahuila, in Monterrey, Nuevo León, in León, Gto., in San Luis Potosí, SLP, in Guadalajara, Jalisco and in the Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico, which collect and say that they “treat and recycle” hazardous waste that they collect and in the In the case of the northwest border, they import hazardous waste from the United States. In reality it is not so. The little control and timely tracking of the final destination of the recycled and the waste from the recycling of this type of hazardous waste that the Semarnat maintains to this day, allow these companies to do their own thing. And we do not see near the day that Semarnat wants to have a true control and tracking of hazardous waste in our country, not only knowing the reality of the generation of such waste by generators, but the control and timely tracking of transport and of course the collection, treatment and recycling stages, in addition to the final destination that could be or the incineration or final disposal in the 3 confinements that are authorized for it.
Semarnat can authorize the importation of hazardous waste, but only those that are recycled, that is the rule. But in the case of companies on the northwest border, this is not the case. Many companies manage to cheat and not fully comply with their obligations.
We know that our Federal Office for Environmental Protection is outnumbered, due to the few monitoring and inspection personnel it has, in addition to the corruption that we cannot avoid. We know that it is incapable of permanently monitoring all companies, not only generators of hazardous waste, but also those engaged in the collection, treatment, recycling, incineration and final disposal of hazardous waste. All of them, in my opinion, should have special vigilance, by their very nature.
An old document
The new Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention is simply an “old” document that repeats the same timid and small objectives regarding the elimination of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which are no longer 12, but 23. We now have 11 new chemicals that are highly toxic to our health and the ecosystem. Many of them are flame retardants that are used in the manufacture of textile fibers and plastics that we use widely. Others are fungicides, thermal insulators for industry, and still others are used to make electrical, electronic, foam, and hydraulic fluid parts. Our federal government has no intention of allocating financial resources to the dissemination and implementation of this update of the Stockholm Convention Implementation Plan. Mexicans do not and will not soon know the serious health risks caused by these 23 COPs.
In the case of the Rotterdam Convention, we have the same problem. Our legal and regulatory framework does not allow a true control of the chemical substances that enter our country. First of all, we lack a national register of chemical substances. And our customs allow the smuggling of many chemicals that we don't even know what they are. We do know that more than 200 types of pesticides enter illegally, in addition to batteries.
Regarding the Convention on Biological Diversity, the COP13 of the Convention on Biological Diversity was recently held in Cancun, Quintana Roo, with the assistance of more than 190 countries. In this case we have serious problems with the enormous economic power of the large transnational corporations that bend our federal government to impose their practices and technologies in the case of genetically modified organisms.
Regarding SAICM, we are running out of time. We already have to demonstrate concrete actions and tangible results that we are working to reduce the risk of chemical substances in 2020. Our federal government, in this case its specialized entity called the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks, continues to help us to ban more than 30 highly toxic pesticides that are already banned globally. We have not even been able to avoid the use of glyphosate, despite the fact that the World Health Organization informed us on March 20, 2015 that glyphosate is “a probable carcinogen for human beings”. We have meetings and more meetings in working groups and few in the plenary session of the National Consultative Committee for the Comprehensive Management of Chemical Substances, Persistent Organic Compounds and Hazardous Waste Subject to Semarnat International Environmental Conventions, but the progress is insignificant. Due, among other reasons, to the serious disinterest of our federal officials, both from Semarnat and from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa) and Cofepris. There is no real coordination between these entities, to fulfill or try to fulfill our global obligations.
In the field of fighting global warming, I only have to say that the goals set forth in the Paris Agreement are simply good wishes, Mexico continues to promote the use of fossil fuels as demonstrated by the energy reform. And progress in the use of green energy is slow. We do not even yet have our verified national greenhouse gas inventories, that is, we do not even know actual emissions as a GHG country.
In conclusion: Our last three federal governments and the current one, in terms of global agreements, are simply street lamps and darkness in their homes. Governments simulators and irresponsible with the health of Mexicans and with the planet.
President of Mexico, Communication and Environment, AC
www.carlosalvarezflores.com y twitter @calvarezflores