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The Metric

Jan 14, 2014

International data collection of POPs emissions

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/User Lite-Trac

Monitoring the implementation and progress toward goals established through international environmental agreements is arguably just as important as their adoption. However, this qualitative information is often difficult to measure, and instead performance data acts as a key tool for assessing country- and global-level actions.

International data collection has proven beneficial for understanding progress toward convention goals, and in essence their implementation. In 2006 the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List Index to help measure progress toward the 2010 Biodiversity Target, which was included in the Millennium Development Goals. This target aimed to significantly reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional, and national level. Although this target was not met, the Red List data provided valuable information, such as the conservation status (i.e., extinct, endangered, vulnerable, etc.) and distribution of plants and animals, to understand progress and determine where actions were needed.

Likewise, the Toolkit for Identification and Quantification of Releases of Dioxins, Furans and Other Unintentional POPs was created to help facilitate implementation of the Stockholm Convention. Countries can use the toolkit to examine release inventories of Annex C chemicals (i.e., unintentional POPs) and compare management techniques with peer countries. This toolkit is part of the Convention's larger effort to understand country-level progress and identify best practices for implementing the Convention and moving toward a POPs-free future.

The Convention is also collecting emissions data as part of a Global Monitoring Plan, which is an effort to compile comparable monitoring data on the presence of POPs from all regions to identify changes in emissions over time and understand the regional and global environmental transport of these chemicals. Although this database is not yet comprehensive, the information it provides helps decisionmakers understand how to better manage these chemicals.

While further progress is needed to understand the global situation with POPs, great strides are being made on a regional basis. The European Environment Agency, for example, collects data on national air pollutant emissions, including a detailed and specified analysis of dioxins and furans. The data are then submitted to the Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution Convention – a global agreement that has had considerable success regulating air pollution. Although the data only includes emissions from European countries, it will be helpful in distinguishing performance among those countries.