The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade entered into force on 24 February 2004.
The aim of this multilateral environmental convention is to curb the risks encountered in the international trade with hazardous chemicals and pesticides.
By way of an early-warning system, states are informed of planned exports and receive information on hazards and risks emanating from certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides. This is based on the prerequisite that these substances or formulations are banned, not permitted or severely restricted for reasons of environmental or health protection in at least 2 states from 2 global regions or have caused accidents in least-developed and emerging countries.
Many hazardous chemicals are already banned, not permitted or severely restricted otherwise in Austria, but also in the European Union. In line with precautionary environmental and health protection, these chemicals should only be exported to third countries if the respective destination state was informed on the hazardous nature of these substances and has nevertheless agreed to their import.
Austria was one of the first EU Member States to ratify the Rotterdam PIC Convention as early as in August 2002 on the occasion of the Johannesburg Earth Summit. The Convention constitutes a milestone with regard to increasing global chemicals safety and enhanced development cooperation. The Rotterdam Convention covers hazardous chemicals that are already banned or severely restricted in a given country as well as hazardous pesticides that have already caused environmental or health problems, such as the poisoning of children, in least-developed or emerging countries. Their inclusion in the “proscription list” of the Convention means that they must not be exported without the prior consent of the destination country. The states that are parties to the Convention receive a dossier on the potential risks and hazards emanating from the chemical that was compiled by the Chemical Review Committee of the Convention. On this basis, an informed import decision can be made. This mechanism is referred to as PIC procedure.
Currently, 48 substances are on the PIC list, among them a series of hazardous pesticides such as DDT, endosulfan, various mercury compounds or pentachlorophenol (PCP), a carcinogenic wood preservation agent. Candidate substances for inclusion in the list are e.g. chrysotile asbestos and paraquat. These hazardous substances and the pertaining replies regarding import are listed in the PIC circular of FAO, the World Food and Agriculture Organisation, and of the World Environment Programme UNEP (both operate the Secretariat of the Convention).
The European Union anchored the Convention in the Import-Export Regulation that contains more far-reaching provisions.