Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution, the Geneva Protocol

1. Issued by / date / date of implementation

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe / 18.11.1991 / ninety days after ratification

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2. Type of legislation

International protocol to be implemented by all ratifying Parties.

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3. General purpose

The emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere generate secondary photochemical oxidant products that may damage natural resources of vital environmental and economic importance and under certain exposure conditions, may have harmful effects on human health.

The purpose of the protocol is to determine Parties to take effective action to control and reduce national annual emissions of VOCs or the transboundary fluxes of VOCs and the resulting secondary photochemical oxidant products.

The objectives of the Protocol should be achieved in particular by applying appropriate national or international emission standards to new mobile and new stationary sources and retrofitting existing major stationary sources, and also by limiting the content of components in products for industrial and domestic use that have the potential to emit VOCs.

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4. Substitution relevant paragraphs

Article 2.5 states that in implementing the Protocol, Parties shall take appropriate steps to ensure that toxic and carcinogenic VOCs and those that harm the stratospheric ozone layer, are not used as substitutes for other VOCs.

ANNEX II regarding control measures for emissions of VOCs from stationary sources proposes a list of available measures which may be implemented either singly or in combination, including at point (a) the ‘substitution of VOCs; e.g. the use of water-based degreasing baths, and paints, inks, glues or adhesives which are low in or do not contain VOCs’.

The section dedicated to products of the same Annex states (points V.71 and V.72) that in circumstances in which control techniques are not appropriate, the sole means of reducing VOC emissions is by ‘altering the composition of products used’. The main sectors and products concerned are: adhesives used in households, light industry, shops and offices, paints for use in households, household cleaning and personal care products, office products such as correcting fluids and car maintenance products. In any other situation in which products like those mentioned above are used (e.g. painting, light industry), ‘alterations in product composition are highly preferable. Measures aimed at reducing VOC emissions from such products include product substitution and product reformulation’.

At point V.79 it is estimated that about 40-60% of VOC emissions from consumer products (including office products and those used in car maintenance) are from aerosols. Related to that, one measure of substitution is presented, that does not involve the replacement of a substance by another substance but uses a change in technology: substitution of propellant aerosols by the use of mechanical pumps.

ANNEX III proposes control measures for VOCs emissions from on-road motor vehicles and provides guidance on the influence of changes in petrol properties on evaporative VOC emissions. Fuel substitution (e.g. natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), methanol) can also provide VOC-emission reductions but this is not considered in this annex.

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5. Assessment of relevance for substitution

The protocol specifies reduction targets for VOC emissions from stationary and mobile sources and suggests measures to be applied in this respect, including substitution of hazardous substances with other chemicals or with different technologies. Some examples of specific sectors and products where substitution may be considered are presented but examples of substitution are not provided.

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6. Link to the legal text

Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution Concerning the Control of Emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds or their Transboundary Fluxes (document accessible via UNECE Website)

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7. Further information

7.1 Studies or publications about the legislation or its impact

7.2 Other relevant legislation

The 1979 Geneva Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP)

Last update: 18.11.2010

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