Stockholm Convention - History, Aim, Members, Challenges

By Shubhra Anand Jain|Updated : September 9th, 2022

Stockholm Convention is a global treaty that was made in 2001 to protect human health as well as the environment from Persistent Organic Pollutants also known as POPs. The Union Government of India approved the ratification of seven chemicals that were listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2020.

The Stockholm declaration seeks to restrict production and eliminate the use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Stockholm Convention is an essential topic of the UPSC syllabus and forms part of the subject of Environment and Ecology.

Table of Content

What is Stockholm Convention?

Stockholm Convention (also known as Stockholm Declaration) is a global treaty signed in 2001 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Stockholm (Sweden) and came into effect on 17th May 2004. It is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from POPs. The prime objective of the convention is to eliminate or reduce the use of Persistent Organic Pollutants like lindane, chlordecone, etc. through active measures.

  • The responsibility of transitioning economies and developing various nations to help them in the implementation of the measures of the Stockholm Convention is taken by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation.
  • The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a multilateral financial mechanism that provides grants for the progress of the Stockholm Convention.

History of the Stockholm Convention

The Stockholm Convention on POPs was adopted in 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden, and entered into force in 2004. However, discussions on the adoption of the convention to work on POPs started way before the adoption of the Stockholm Convention.

  • In 1995, the United Nations Environment Programme requested in its decision to work on the elimination of the initial list of 12 POPs through an international assessment.
  • The UNEP Governing Council invited the UNEP in 1997 to convene an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to prepare a globally binding instrument for implementing action on the 12 POPs that were identified initially.
  • In 1998, the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee was held in Montreal, Canada to develop a globally binding legal instrument for implementing action on the POPs.
  • The Criteria Expert Group was established, which completed its mandate in two meetings.
  • In 2004, the Stockholm Convention entered into force.

Also, read about Ramsar Convention, Kyoto Protocol, and Nagoya Protocol

Aims of the Stockholm Convention

  • Targeting additional Persistent Organic Pollutants for action.
  • Implementing control measures for the Persistent Organic Pollutants.
  • Reviewing and updating the National Implementation Plan.
  • Finding and supporting safer alternatives to POPs.
  • Cleaning up the old stockpiles.
  • Including new chemicals in the program for effective evaluation.

Three different annexes in the Stockholm Convention explain which POPs are to be eliminated, which POPs are to be restricted, and which unintentionally occurring POPs are to be reduced.

  • Annex A: Apart from a few exceptions, all the chemicals mentioned under this annexure are to be eliminated by the member states of the convention.
  • Annex B: Apart from a few exceptions, all the chemicals mentioned under this annexure are to be restricted for use by the member states of the convention.
  • Annex C: Under this annexure, those chemicals produced unintentionally are to be reduced with adequate and appropriate measures for ultimate elimination.

Members of the Stockholm Convention

As of December 2021, 185 members of the Stockholm Convention have ratified it. India is also one of the main members of the Stockholm Convention. India signed the convention in May 2022 and brought it into force in January 2006.

What are Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)?

Persistent Organic Pollutants are organic compounds with unique properties that make them resistant to environmental degradation. POPs are also known as forever chemicals. They are toxic and have an adverse impact on the health of living organisms.

The Stockholm Convention mainly looks after the elimination or reduction of POPs. However, there are various other conventions like the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollutants, Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants, etc, that look after the elimination or reduction of POPs from the environment. There are a number of chemical properties which POPs display once they are released into the environment. These chemical properties are discussed below:

  1. Lifetime: POPs remain in the environment for long periods. Thus, they are often known as forever chemicals.
  2. Solubility: They are not readily soluble in water.
  3. Distribution: POPs are distributed in the environment with the help of natural carriers like wind, water, and soil. POPs show an extended range of environmental transport.
  4. Food Chain: POPs become a part of the food chain as they quickly get accumulate in the fatty tissues of living organisms, including humans.
  5. Bioaccumulation: As we discussed above, POPs get accumulate in the fatty tissues of living organisms, and their concentration gets magnified. The species at the top level of the food chain absorb a greater concentration of POPs and carry it along. This affects their health adversely.

Adverse Effects of POPs

Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants can lead to chronic diseases like cancer, hypersensitivity, etc. It can lead to damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. It can also hamper reproductive disorders and cause interference with normal infant and child development. Allergies and disruption of the immune and endocrine systems are some more effects of POPs.

12 Persistent Organic Pollutants under Stockholm Declaration

As we discussed above, the Stockholm Convention categorized POPs into three different categories, which are as follows:

  • Annex A: Pesticides
  • Annex B: Industrial Chemicals
  • Annex C: By-products

Initially, the convention recognized 12 POPs, which are segregated into these three categories.

  • Annex A (Pesticides): Toxaphene, Heptachlor, DDT, Aldrin, Chlordane, Dieldrin, Hexachlorobenzene, Mirex, Endrin.
  • Annex B (Industrial Chemicals): Hexachlorobenzene, Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Annex C (By-products): Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, Polychlorinated dibenzofurans.

16 new POPs were further added in 2017 under the Stockholm Declaration. Those POPs are as follows:

Alpha hexachlorocyclohexane, Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF), Beta hexachlorocyclohexane, Pentachlorophenol, and its salts and esters, Chlordecone, Pentachlorobenzene, Hexabromobiphenyl, Technical endosulfan, and its related isomers, Polychlorinated naphthalenes, Hexabromocyclododecane, Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether (commercial pentabromodiphenyl ether), Lindane, Decabromodiphenyl ether (Commercial mixture, DecaBDE), Short-chain chlorinated paraffin (SCCPs), Hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether (commercial octabromodiphenyl ether), and Hexachlorobutadiene.

Primary Sources of Persistent Organic Compounds

Several studies and research have been conducted to identify the sources and emissions of POPs during the last two decades. These studies have been conducted at regional and global scales. Significant knowledge has been achieved in understanding the sources of some pesticides. However, the quantitative understanding of the emission processes for non-pesticide POPs is still considered limited. Some of the main sources that have been identified are as follows:

  1. Combustion processes and elevated temperatures.
  2. Improper use and disposal of industrial chemicals and agrochemicals.
  3. Production of unwanted by-products through industrial processes and combustion.

Stockholm Convention POPs and India

As per the Energy and Resources Institute report on POPs, the level of POPs in the environment of India is extremely high because of the poor management of industrial, municipal, and e-wastes. The Stockholm Convention has exempted India from the ban on DDT. India can use and produce DDT as per the Stockholm Convention but only to control insect-borne diseases. DDT cannot be used in agriculture or any other field.

  • India is working actively with the Stockholm convention to promote non-POPs alternatives. As per the Insecticide Act of 1968, listed POPs have been banned for use, manufacture, and import.
  • In 2020, the Union Cabinet approved ratifying seven chemicals or organic compounds listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
  • The Unions Cabinet further delegated its powers to ratify chemicals under the Stockholm Convention to the Ministries of External Affairs, Environment, Forest, and Climate Change concerning POPs for streamlining the procedure. The ratification process benefits India as it would enable India to access GEF financial resources in updating the NIP.

Stockholm+50

Stockholm+50 was held in Stockholm, Sweden, to commemorate the 50 years since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, also known as the Stockholm Conference. The UN General Assembly convened the international meeting. This meeting was held when the world faced a global crisis of pollution and waste, climate change, nature, and biodiversity loss. One of the important agendas of the meeting also included the discussion on the sustainable recovery from the Coronavirus pandemic. In the meeting, specific deadlines were set for realizing the goals of a sustainable environment free from harmful organic compounds like POPs, pollution, and waste.

Challenges Faced by the Stockholm Convention

Since its inception, global politics has adversely impacted the Stockholm conference. Many countries have expressed their concerns regarding the supremacy and domination of rich countries and said that policies that are made by the conference are inclined more towards the interest of industrialized and wealthier countries. The biggest hurdle in the way of adopting sustainable measures across the globe is the presence of poverty. Unless the developing or poor countries are in a position to provide adequate employment to the people, the policies and decisions toward a sustainable environment cannot be implemented properly.

The majority of countries need to understand that conservation of the ecosystem and environment will not work against their interests. Adequate measures must be adopted for environmental protection to ensure the upliftment of developing countries economies.

Stockholm Convention UPSC

Stockholm Convention is one of the important global environment conventions that is very important for the UPSC exam. The aspirants preparing for the UPSC exams should be well-versed in the aims, objectives, and developments in the Stockholm Convention. To know more about the Stockholm Convention and other important environmental topics, you can refer to the following links: UPSC Study Material, and other UPSC Books.

>> Download Stockholm Convention UPSC Notes PDF

Stockholm Convention UPSC Prelims Sample Question

Question: Regarding the Stockholm Convention:

  1. The Conference of Plenipotentiaries adopted the Stockholm Convention on POPs in 2005.
  2. Initially, 15 POPs were recognized by the Stockholm Convention.
  3. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a multilateral financial mechanism that provides grants for the progress of the Stockholm Convention.
  4. As of 2021, there are 185 members of the Stockholm Convention.

choose the correct option.

  1. 3 and 2
  2. 2 and 4
  3. 3 and 4
  4. 1 and 2

Answer: C

Other Important UPSC Notes
Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)Article 28 of the Indian Constitution
Forest Rights Act 2006UN Environment Programme
List of High Courts in IndiaKeshvananda Bharti Case
Red Sanders in IndiaMonetary Policy
Good GovernanceSocial Empowerment

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FAQs on Stockholm Convention

  • The main objective of the Stockholm Convention is to protect the environment and human health from the adverse effects of POPs.

  • The Stockholm Convention is a legally binding global instrument ratified by the 185 members which is designed to promote a gradual decrease in the presence of POPs in the environment. Article 16 of the Stockholm Convention states that the effectiveness and the efficiency of the measures adopted by the Stockholm Convention should be evaluated at regular intervals.

  • Initially, 12 POPs were recognized by the Stockholm Convention and were categorized into three different categories. These 12 POPs were collectively known as the Dirty Dozen. The Dirty Dozen included the following organic compounds: Toxaphene, Heptachlor, DDT, Aldrin, Chlordane, Dieldrin, Hexachlorobenzene, Mirex, Endrin, Polychlorinated biphenyls, Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, and Polychlorinated dibenzofurans.

  • There are three main types of Persistent Organic Pollutants. Some POPs are temporary in nature, some of them are of semi-permanent nature while some of them are permanent in nature.

  • DDT is one of the recognized POPs that was developed artificially to combat typhus, malaria, and other insect-borne diseases. Afterwards, it was widely used in different countries as an insecticide. It is not soluble in water and thus tends to accumulate in the fatty tissues of wildlife, insects, and humans.

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