Pollution versus Property Rights
Norway wants sanctions for cross-border polluters
If you cause pollution and that hurts your neighbor, should you be held responsible? Of course you should! But such obvious moral laws of property -- such as "what you produce is yours, whether beneficial or detrimental" -- are not well accepted by some. Here are portions of a recent article released by the Reuters news service.
by Inger SethovNorway, which has complained for years about pollution from Britain's Sellafield nuclear power plant, said yesterday that it would push for a binding international polluter-pays scheme for countries.
The parliamentary committee of foreign affairs agreed unanimously to ask the centre-right government to step up efforts to stop radioactive emissions from Sellafield by imposing economic sanctions.
"If you don't stick to your environmental obligations, there should be sanctions, for instance economic ones," Environment Minister Boerge Brende told Reuters.
Norway, which has repeatedly asked Britain to halt emissions from the reprocessing plant near Sellafield, says it has found traces of the radioactive compound technetium-99, known to stem from Sellafield, along the entire Norwegian coastline.
Brende, who has considered launching a lawsuit against British authorities over Sellafield, has been working to create a U.N. high commissioner for the environment and a U.N. expert panel to lift environmental issues higher on the global agenda.
"There is a big lack in environmental legislation on a global basis," Brende said.
"There are a lot of environmental treaties, but it's too fragmented and the compliance regimes are not good enough."
NORWAY DRIVING FORCE
Foreign affairs committee spokesman Lars Rise said the committee wanted Norway to "become the main driving force in the work internationally to introduce state liability and economic responsibility for damage caused by transfrontier pollution."
"Norway spends more than 100 million Norwegian crowns ($11.01 million) every year for calcium treatment to clean up after all the acid rain coming in from Britain, amongst others," he said.
Rise said Norway, in line with previous efforts to promote environmental issues, should also consider whether to propose a binding convention for the environment, based on the 1992 Rio declaration.
"The goal is to make the polluter-pays principle effective not only for individuals and companies, by also for states," said Rise, who represents the Christian People's Party, one of three parties in the coalition government.
He said the government was obliged to follow up on the proposal and suggested such a convention should fist be tried on a European level and possibly later globally.
"I think its a good idea to start in Europe...then it may be expanded to the United Nations later," he said, noting that the 2002 U.N. world environment summit in Johannesburg would be an appropriate arena.
"The cabinet minister has to propose measures to ensure state liability," Rise said.
Britain first established nuclear facilities at Sellafield, formerly Windscale, in the 1940s, and the world's first commercial nuclear power station was opened there in 1956.
Recent research has shown lobsters and other shellfish in the North Sea and the Irish sea have high levels of technetium-99.
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