Trouble in the air: Recent developments under the 1979 Convention on Long‐Range Transboundary Air Pollution

AuthorAdam Byrne
Published date01 November 2017
Date01 November 2017
Trouble in the air: Recent developments under the 1979
Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution
Adam Byrne
Funding information
Economic and Social Research Council (UK)
in collaboration with the Natural
Environment Research Council (UK),
Grant/Award Number: ES/J500185/1
The 1979 Geneva Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) is
a significant regional treaty under which eight protocols have been developed. The Con-
vention offers a case study on the legal and political challenges that can occur when
addressing air pollution. This article explores the recent history of the CLRTAP regime,
drawing on the conceptual lens of regime effectiveness. First, the article considers how
the legal framework has been modernized over the past decade to reflect changes in
the sources and effects of air pollution. This has predominantly occurred through
amendments to the 1999 Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-
Level Ozone, the 1998 Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the 1998 Protocol
on Heavy Metals, which were negotiated in 20092012. The amendments are an
important point in the regimes history, as they set more stringent pollution limits. Partic-
ular attention is paid to their prospective entry into force and their broader impact on
European law. Second, the geographic coverage of the legal instruments has long been
anissueofconcern,withanumberofformer Soviet Union States choosing to not par-
ticipate in the pollution-specific protocols. The article reviews efforts to boost participa-
tion through the creation in 2011 of a coordinating group to promote action in the
countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Third, the article explores
recent developments in compliance and inventory adjustments under the Gothenburg
Protocol, as a demonstration of how the system approaches changes in scientific knowl-
edge on the sources and levels of air pollution, and how this affects compliance.
The 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution
is fast approaching its 40th anniversary since its signing
and has been in force for just under 35 years. The Convention was
negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Com-
mission for Europe (UNECE), an organization that was set up to aid
the reconstruction and redevelopment of Europe after the Second
World War.
In practical terms, the UNECE attempts to tie together a
heterogeneous range of geopolitical groupings: North America, West-
ern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Balkans and parts of West and Cen-
tral Asia. The Convention therefore has the potential to extend
transboundary air pollution law over a geographic range of 47 million
square kilometres, encompassing 20 percent of the world population.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is properly cited.
©2017 The Authors. Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (adopted 13 November 1979,
entered into force 16 March 1983) 1302 UNTS 217 (CLRTAP).
The UNECE was created and given its terms of reference by UN Economic and Social
Council, Economic Commission for Europe (UNESCO Res 36 (IV) (28 March 1947), docu-
ment E/402); for a history of the UNECE, see Y Berthelot and P Rayment, Looking Back and
Peering Forward: A Short History of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe,
19472007 (UN 2007); see also AS Bishop and RD Munro, The UN Regional Commissions
and Environmental Problems(1972) 26 International Organization 348.
UNECE Geographical Scope<>.
DOI: 10.1111/reel.12219
| RECIEL. 2017;26:210219.

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