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HRC39: Statement by Denmark in presentation by UN Special Rapporteur on Hazardous Waste on country visit to Denmark

12.09.2018  13:43

UN Human Rights Council, 39th Session
Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, 12 September 2018

Intervention by Denmark (country concerned)
Delivered by Ambassador Morten Jespersen
[Check against delivery]

Thank you, Mr President

On behalf of the Kingdom of Denmark; I would like to thank the Special rapporteur on the implications on human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes for his mission to Denmark and Greenland in the autumn of 2017.

Denmark welcomes the report and looks forward to continuing the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on these important issues.

Firstly, I would like to address the visit to Denmark and the findings in this respect.

It is a key Danish priority to ensure a high level of protection from hazardous chemicals for all citizens and for the environment. Our current national political agreement on initiatives on chemicals from 2018-2021 continues the focus on protecting human health and the environment - as well as on responsible production and use of chemical substances.

It is therefore encouraging to note that our efforts in the field of reducing exposures to hazardous chemicals, including in particular for children, are commendable and may serve as inspiration for other countries. I therefore also take note of the recommendations regarding the behavior of Danish businesses in foreign territories which may contribute to exposure to hazardous chemicals abroad. In this respect, it should be mentioned that Denmark actively supports the establishment of a new long-term framework to enable and ensure sustainable chemicals and waste management globally beyond 2020. This work is in line with the 2030 Agenda on sustainable development and part of achieving the sustainable development goals.

Denmark is party to the EU ship recycling regulation that enters into force at the end of this year. The regulation and the European list of ship recycling facilities will be applicable to ships under Danish flag. Denmark has also - as one of only a few countries - ratified the Hong Kong Convention, which, hopefully, will enter into force soon. In this way, Denmark supports and contributes to the efforts in order to ensuring environmentally sound ship recycling and to solving the issue of inadequate ship recycling facilities in southern Asia.

There should be no doubt that Denmark is deeply concerned about the lack of environmental and work safety standards as seen in Alang Bay and other ship recycling facilities in southern Asia.

The Danish company Maersk has informed that they have implemented a program that serves to upgrade the ship recycling facilities in Alang Bay in order to meet environmental and workers safety standards.

In relation to the extra-territorial conduct of Danish businesses in general, we would like to point out that the Danish Government has established a mediation and complaints-handling institution for responsible business conduct. The institution is to investigate cases involving potential adverse impacts by Danish companies on international CSR guidelines. The institution can examine complaints involving not only Danish private companies but also public authorities and private organizations, such as NGO’s. It can also take up cases on its own initiative, which will allow the institution to be proactive in cases of substantive importance.

Secondly, I would like to make a few remarks in relation to the visit to Greenland.

Greenland has committed itself to advancing best environmental practices and best available technology. This applies throughout the entire system from legislation to practice.

One of the focus areas of the report is the global emissions and transport of toxic chemicals that contaminate Arctic ecosystems and may impact on the health of the Arctic people. That paradox was addressed by the eight Arctic states when adopting the Artic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), which lead to the establishment of the Arctic Council.

Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands have from the outset supported the work in the Arctic Council, including the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme  (AMAP) with a view to amongst other things assisting Greenlandic health authorities in providing health diet advice. 

Another focus area of the report is management of waste and hazardous substances related to former military installations in Greenland. These issues have also been a focus area for deliberations and dialogue between the Danish and Greenlandic Government for a number of years.

The common determination to address the issue in a practical manner was demonstrated when the Danish Minister for the Environment and Food and the Greenlandic Premier in January 2018 signed an agreement concerning clean up of former US military presence in Greenland to be financed by Denmark. The agreement covers clean-up activities over six years with an annual budget of DKK 30 million or around USD 4.5 million. The agreement may be extended, if deemed necessary.

With regard to Camp Century – a US scientific and military site constructed underneath the ice sheet in the North Western part of Greenland during the cold war – Denmark and Greenland in February 2017 agreed on a separate assessment and monitoring track. A number of studies have been initiated to establish a fact based assessment of the remains and waste at Camp Century, including a programme for long-term climate monitoring, detailed one-time surveying of the debris field and measurements of radioactivity in samples of ice core material from Camp Century.

The 2018-agreement between the Government of Denmark and the Government of Greenland as well as the activities initiated in relation to Camp Century are indications of the joint commitment to address the challenges posed by past military activities in Greenland.

These commitments are noted in the main part of the report. However, in our point of view, the related recommendation is too far-reaching. It is not founded in the factual part of the report. And it does not adequately reflect the 2018-agreement.

Likewise, the recommendation regarding expansion or change in the status of foreign military activities in Greenland in our view does not adequately reflect the constitutional setting of the Kingdom of Denmark as described in the main part of the report.

Finally, these recommendations do not reflect the fact that the Greenlandic people is represented through the representative democratic institutions in both the Kingdom of Denmark and in Greenland.

As regards the finding on the possible pollution of rocket fuel, Denmark supports that outer space activities should be conducted so to ensure long-term sustainability including adequate efforts to minimize the environmental impact whether in space or on earth. We consider that the multinational work on inter alia best-practice guidelines on long-term sustainability of outer space activities carried out by the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its subcommittees is a key part in this regard.

Thank you, Mr President