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Justice for environment: French Govt & Clemenceau

Justice for the environment as French Government takes back the Clemenceau

Paris -- Greenpeace today celebrated President Jacques Chirac’s decision to call back the decommissioned toxic aircraft carrier, the Clemenceau, to France from its journey to the ship-breaking yards in Alang, India.

The ship left France on December 31, 2005, under a huge cloud of controversy after Greenpeace and other organisations launched a campaign to stop the Clemenceau’s export to India to be broken up because it contains a toxic cocktail of asbestos, PCBs and heavy metals.

Greenpeace declared that the quantities of hazardous wastes still on board deemed the shipment as illegal trade under the Basel Convention - the international treaty that prohibits the export of toxic wastes from developed nations to non-OECD countries.

“This is a huge victory for the environment, and for the campaign headed up by Greenpeace and other organisations,” said Pascal Husting, Greenpeace France Executive Director. “In today’s globalised world it is vital that nations, such as France and India, co-operate to uphold global justice and not shamelessly pass on their responsibility to those in vulnerable areas of the planet”.

Yesterday, the government representative on the Council of State - the French Supreme Court – recommended the suspension of the transfer of the Clemenceau to India, pointing out the possibility that European law may have been violated. President Chirac announced the final decision to retrieve the aircraft carrier earlier today. Greenpeace also welcomes Chirac's announcement that France will work with its partners to develop a European infrastructure for decontaminating decommissioned ships in Europe before eventually sending them for scrapping to Asia.

The Clemenceau was one of the largest ships to be sent for scrap but every year a vast decrepit armada bearing a dangerous cargo of toxic substances including asbestos, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and heavy metals, ends up in Asian ship breaking yards (Bangladesh, India, China and Pakistan) where they are cut up using the crudest of methods - taking a huge toll on human health and the local environment.

“The Clemenceau became the icon of toxic trade abuse between the developed world and developing countries. With President Chirac’s decision, it now becomes a sign of how Governments, when pressurized by public opinion, can take corrective action,” said Martin Besieux, Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner. “This incident should set the precedent not just for ship-breaking, but for all toxic trade.”

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

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