The Montreal Protocol is an international agreement that controls the production and consumption of specific man-made chemicals that destroy the ozone layer, the earth's protective shield. Ozone is a gas that is naturally present in the atmosphere. The large amount of ozone in the part of the upper atmosphere known as the stratosphere is often referred to as the “ozone layer”. This layer encircles the entire globe and acts as a filter for harmful ultraviolet radiation (UV-B). UV-B radiation is a highly energetic light that originates from the sun, and ozone molecules reduce the amount of UV-B radiation reaching the surface of the earth. The ozone layer is destroyed by ozone-depleting substances (ODS) when those chemicals are released into the atmosphere and then react with the ozone molecules.
Elevated ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth as a result of ozone depletion can have major impacts on life and nature, including skin cancer and cataracts and weakened immune systems. It also can damage terrestrial plant life, including crops, and aquatic ecosystems.
The Basel Convention on the “Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal” was adopted in 1989 and entered into force on 5 May 1992. The Convention responds to the international community's problems stemming from the worldwide production of hundreds of millions of tonnes of wastes, some of which is moved and dumped in ways that are not environmentally sound. This global environmental treaty strictly regulates the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and obligates its 170 Parties to ensure that such wastes are managed and Disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
A treaty in force since 1975, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulates and monitors the international trade in many species of wildlife and plants. Currently, 172 countries are co-operating through a system of permits and certificates , similar to 'eco-labels', to confirm that trade in listed wildlife and plants, including parts and derived products, is legal and does not threaten their survival in the wild.
CITES is designed to prevent the further decline of wild populations and to ensure that trade is based on the sustainable use and management of wild and captive populations. So far, the Convention has been the largest and, by some accounts, the most effective international wildlife conservation agreement. Certain good practices may be applied to the Montreal Protocol and vice versa. CITES has also developed its own specific Customs training (available in CD-ROM format).
International concern about the risks arising from uncontrolled trade in extremely hazardous chemicals and pesticides led to the adoption of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade in which 119 countries actively participate. The Convention, which came into force on 24 February 2004, establishes controls on the trade in hazardous chemicals and aims to empower governments to monitor and control cross-border trade. Because trade is just one avenue for the spread of highly dangerous substances, further agreements are needed to prevent dangerous chemicals such as persistent organic pollutants from being released into the environment where they pose a threat to people and wildlife. The Rotterdam Convention will also develop Customs training in the future.
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) entered into force on 17 May 2004. POPs are man-made chemicals with the following characteristics:
- persistent—they remain intact in the environment for long periods;
- organic— they are carbon-based compounds and mixtures;
- pollutant—they are introduced into the environment and adversely affect the health of humans, animals and ecosystems.
Even low levels of POPs can damage the nervous system, affect the immune and reproductive systems and produce developmental disorders and cancers. Thus these chemicals must be monitored. Obligations relevant to import/export activities cover only intentionally produced POPs. The import or export of POPs included in the Convention is allowed only for the purpose of environmentally sound disposal or for a use permitted under the Convention for the importing party. All other imports or exports are prohibited. The role of the Customs authorities of Parties to the Convention in its implementation is to ensure application of the obligations on international trade under the Convention at the national level and thus participate in national efforts to ensure compliance with the Convention.
Convention on Biological Diversity and its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
In its regulatory objective and approach, the Cartagena Protocol, which entered into force on 11 September 2003, is much like the Basel Convention and the Rotterdam Convention. In particular:
The Biosafety Protocol essentially provides for procedures, such as the advance informed agreement procedure, which applies to the transboundary movements of living modified organisms that are destined for introduction into the environment of the importing Party.
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force on 29 April 1997, is an international treaty that bans the use of chemical weapons and aims to eliminate chemical weapons worldwide, forever. The Convention provides the basis for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which monitors the destruction of existing declared stocks of chemical weapons and the facilities used to produce chemical weapons, and checks industrial sites to ensure that chemicals monitored under the Convention are used in accordance with the chemical weapons ban. The OPCW also promotes international co-operation and the exchange of scientific and technical information, so that people and governments can benefit from the peaceful uses of chemistry.