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Science, Politics, and Persistent Organic Pollutants: The Role of Scientific Assessments in International Environmental Co-operation

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Abstract

International measures to address environmental problems increasingly rely on scientific information, and a growing number of international agreements require periodic scientific re-assessments. However, the arena of scientific assessment, governed by a combination of scientific criteria and political interests, is not well-understood, and few case studies have mapped the influence of scientific assessment on the birth and development of environmental policy issues. This article examines the role of scientific assessments and the science-politics interplay in international attempts to regulate persistent organic pollutants (POPs), focusing on the processes within the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The study shows that scientific and political activities are intrinsically linked in international POPs work. Scientific and political agendas are co-constructed with no clear boundary between the science and politics spheres. Scientific assessments played a prominent role in constructing POPs as an issue of international concern, setting agendas and shaping policies.

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