The 1979 Geneva Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution
The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution was the first international legally binding instrument to deal with problems of air pollution on a broad regional basis. It was signed in 1979 and entered into force in 1983. It has since been extended by eight specific protocols. The Convention is one of the central means for protecting our environment. It has substantially contributed to the development of international environmental law and has created the essential framework for controlling and reducing the damage to human health and the environment caused by transboundary air pollution. It is a successful example of what can be achieved through intergovernmental cooperation.
The history of the Convention can be traced back to the 1960s, when scientists demonstrated the interrelationship between sulphur emissions in continental Europe and the acidification of Scandinavian lakes. The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm signalled the start for active international cooperation to combat acidification. Between 1972 and 1977 several studies confirmed the hypothesis that air pollutants could travel several thousands of kilometres before deposition and damage occurred. This also implied that cooperation at the international level was necessary to solve problems such as acidification.
In response to these acute problems, a High-level Meeting within the Framework of UNECE on the Protection of the Environment was held at ministerial level in November 1979 in Geneva. It resulted in the signature of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution by 34 Governments and the European Community (EC). Besides laying down the general principles of international cooperation for air pollution abatement, the Convention sets up an institutional framework bringing together research and policy.
Article 1: DEFINITIONS
For the purposes of the present Convention:
(a) "Air Pollution" means the introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances or energy into the air resulting in deleterious effects of such a nature as to endanger human health, harm living resources and ecosystems and material property and impair or interfere with amenities and other legitimate uses of the environment, and "air pollutants" shall be construed accordingly;
(b) "Long-range transboundary air pollution" means air pollution whose physical origin is situated wholly or in part within the area under the national jurisdiction of one State and which has adverse effects in the area under the jurisdiction of another State at such a distance that it is not generally possible to distinguish the contribution of individual emission sources or groups of sources.
Article 2: FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES
The Contracting Parties, taking due account of the facts and problems involved, are determined to protect man and his environment against air pollution and shall endeavour to limit and, as far as possible, gradually reduce and prevent air pollution including long-range transboundary air pollution.
The Contracting Parties, within the framework of the present Convention, shall by means of exchanges of information, consultation, research and monitoring, develop without undue delay policies and strategies which shall serve as a means of combating the discharge of air pollutants, taking into account efforts already made at national and international levels.
The Contracting Parties shall exchange information on and review their policies, scientific activities and technical measures aimed at combating, as far as possible, the discharge of air pollutants which may have adverse effects, thereby contributing to the reduction of air pollution including longrange transboundary air pollution.
Consultations shall be held, upon request, at an early stage between, on the one hand, Contracting Parties which are actually affected by or exposed to a significant risk of long-range transboundary air pollution and, on the other hand, Contracting Parties within which and subject to whose jurisdiction a significant contribution to long-range transboundary air pollution originates, or could originate, in connection with activities carried on or contemplated therein.