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Ospar Commission

Volume 406: debated on Thursday 12 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action will be taken to ensure that the Government meet the commitments of the OSPAR Commission proposals of July 1998 in advance of the meeting in Bremen in June 2003. [116119]

In 1998, OSPAR agreed strategies on hazardous substances, eutrophication, radioactive substances, biodiversity, and assessment and monitoring. A strategy for offshore oil and gas was agreed the following year. These strategies set long term goals—in some cases, looking a generation ahead (i.e. 2020).The strategy with regard to hazardous substances sets the objective of preventing pollution of the maritime area by continuously reducing discharges, emissions and losses of hazardous substances, with the ultimate aim of achieving concentrations in the marine environment near background values for naturally occurring substances and close to zero for man-made synthetic substances. The UK has worked with other OSPAR contracting parties, including the European Commission, to update and prioritise a list of substances that cause concern for the marine environment and to identify the most appropriate additional action to achieve the objective.The objective of the strategy to combat eutrophication is to seek to achieve and maintain a healthy marine environment where eutrophication does not occur by the year 2010. A key milestone to this is the assessment of the current eutrophication status of the various parts of the OSPAR maritime area. In this assessment the UK identified 16 marine areas of concern. These are being addressed by action under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and the Nitrates Directive.

The strategy with regard to radioactive substances requires the OSPAR Commission, by the year 2020, to ensure that discharges of radioactive substances are reduced to levels where the additional concentrations in the marine environment above historic levels, resulting from such discharges, are close to zero. In July 2002, the Government published a strategy showing how the United Kingdom will contribute to the achievement of the 2020 target.

OSPAR's biodiversity strategy aims to protect and conserve ecosystems and marine biological diversity. Annex V was brought into force on 30 August 2000. Since then, the UK has prepared for the forthcoming meeting in Bremen by helping to develop a criteria for identifying threatened and declining species, developing guidelines on the identification and management of marine protected areas, developing guidance on the construction and operation of offshore wind farms, developing an agreement on sand and gravel extraction, arid the development of proposed ecological quality objectives which will be piloted in the North sea.

The strategy for oil and gas addresses the effects of offshore activity through the setting of environmental goals and the establishment of management mechanisms to achieve them. Good progress has been made, in particular with controls on chemicals being agreed and an ambitious goal being set to reduce discharges of produced water. A goal of all operators having internationally recognised environmental management systems in place by the end of 2005 has also been developed and is expected to be adopted at the meeting later this month.

In respect of assessment and monitoring, the forthcoming meeting will invite Ministers to endorse a new OSPAR strategy known as the Joint Assessment and Monitoring Programme (JAMP). This provides the framework for OSPAR's work in this area, both in support of other OSPAR strategies and to facilitate the production in 2010 of a Quality Status Report for the OSPAR maritime area.

Overall the UK has been implementing the plans and. measures set out above in accordance with these strategies, and the milestones contained within them, and has met its commitments to date.