Consumption, heating, agriculture, mining, industry, manufacturing, transportation, and all industrial and human activity in general pollute the environment, by introducing contaminating substances that cause instability, harm or discomfort to the system and the living organisms therein. Pollutants are substances usually foreign to the environment. The use of chemicals, for instance, is essential to meet social and economic goals, but their concentration degrades the environment and harms human health. Pollutants may also be naturally occurring as a result of system imbalance, when their concentration exceeds the natural levels and creates instability and discomfort.
Pollution control, namely the control of emissions and effluents into air, water or soil, is part of environmental management.
International regulation on issues regarding the transboundary movement of chemicals and their management includes the following instruments: Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention); the Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (Rotterdam Convention); Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants; Montreal Protocol, as well as various regional agreements. .
The World Bank is involved in an increasing number of activities in dealing with Persistent Organic Pollutants; it has, for example, cooperated with UNEP and has signed a POPs Trust Fund Agreement with the Government of Canada, with the objective to support capacity building in developing countries and countries with economies in transition to reduce or eliminate their releases of POPs. Moreover, the World Bank is one of the four implementing agencies of the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol (for the protection of the Ozone layer).
The Environmental and International Law Unit of the World Bank’s Legal Vice Presidency provides advice to countries on how to design legislation concerning pollution prevention and control; household waste management and chemicals management; environmental impact assessment; air and water quality.