Geneva, 17 June 2022 — The 2021-2022 meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS COPs) come to a close today after marathon proceedings that begun with the online segment in July 2021, continued with the High-level Segment in Stockholm, Sweden, on 1 June 2022 in association with the Stockholm+50 international meeting, and were finalized with the face-to-face segment in Geneva, Switzerland from 6 to 17 June 2022. Under the theme “Global Agreements for a Healthy Planet: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”, the hybrid BRS COPs were attended by over 1500 delegates from around the world.
Upon the proposal by Ghana and Switzerland, the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (BC COP-15) adopted landmark amendments to Annexes II, VIII and IX, which ensure that all transboundary movements of e-wastes, whether hazardous or not, are subject to the prior informed consent of the importing state and any state of transit. This bold decision not only protects vulnerable countries from unwanted imports, but also fosters the environmentally sound management of e-wastes with state-of-the-art technology and thus contributes to a circular economy.
In addition, BC COP-15 adopted technical guidelines on mercury wastes, as well as three updated technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of wastes from Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Other adopted technical guidelines included the environmentally sound incineration of hazardous and other wastes as covered by disposal operations D10 and R1, and the environmentally sound disposal of hazardous wastes and other wastes in specially engineered landfill (D5).
Decisions were taken to update the technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of waste lead-acid batteries, to initiate the development of technical guidelines on the environmentally sound management of other waste batteries, and to move forward on electronic approaches to the notification and movement documents.
BC COP-15 also continued the small intersessional working group to prepare findings and improve the strategic framework of the Convention for 2012–2021, initiated a new track of work to improve the functioning of the Prior Informed Consent procedure, and adopted new measures on tackling plastic wastes.
COP-15 further welcomed the work of the Implementation and Compliance Committee to support individual Parties overcome their compliance difficulties, and adopted two guidance documents it to improve the implementation of the Convention’s prior informed consent procedure – one of transit transboundary movements and the other on insurance, bond and guarantee.
Finally, COP-15 agreed to further consider the amendments put forward by the European Union to amend Annex IV of the Convention which is key to determining when a substance or object is to be considered a waste falling within the scope of the Convention.
The tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (RC COP-10) engaged in very extensive and inclusive discussions on chemicals and pesticides, and listed two industrial chemicals: decabromodiphenyl ether, and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and PFOA-related compounds. This listing will make these chemicals subject to the Prior Informed Consent procedure, thereby granting Parties the right to decide on their future import.
“Parties explicitly thanked the Secretariat and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for their support to identify less hazardous alternatives to the pesticides on the agenda” said Christine Fuell, Coordinator of the FAO part of the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat. However, no consensus to list them could be reached due to just a few of the 160 Parties present objecting. Numerous delegates commended the Chemical Review Committee for its excellent work in reviewing the chemicals and pesticides recommended for listing, and noted with disappointment that most of the reasons brought forward to object listings fell outside the scope of the Rotterdam Convention.
On a positive note, RC COP-10 agreed on the work programme for the newly established Compliance Committee. This important subsidiary body will take up its work as soon as possible and is expected to further improve the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention.
The tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC COP-10) listed perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), its salts, and PFHxS-related compounds in Annex A to the Convention, setting them for elimination. PFHxS, its salts and related substances have a high resistance to friction, heat, and chemical agents. They are widely used in firefighting foam, carpets, and non-stick cookware. They have been found to influence the human nervous system, brain development, and thyroid hormone.
In addition, a process was put in place for Parties to provide information on a voluntary basis about cases of trade occurring in contravention of the Stockholm Convention, building on the positive experience under the Basel Convention which sets out a similar process.
SC COP-10 also adopted decisions on two of the initial POPs listed under the Convention: PCB and DDT. On PCB, the SC COP urged Parties to step up their efforts by immediately implementing actions to eliminate its use in equipment by 2025, and to achieve the environmentally sound management of relevant PCB wastes by 2028. On DDT, the COP noted that, while there is a continued need for DDT for indoor residual spraying in specific settings for malaria vector control, it is assumed that DDT use may not be needed after 2030. Parties still using DDT for disease vector control were invited to review their needs, while a decision was taken to initiate a consultative process on a possible DDT phase-out plan.
From 8 to 10 June, the BRS COPs hosted the Plastics Forum, a multi-stakeholder event dedicated to promoting the environmentally sound management of plastic waste. The Plastics Forum, which featured more than 20 side events held in a 3-D virtual platform, marked the peak of the Plastic is Forever campaign, with a hackathon, a photo exhibition, the launch of a social media challenge, and an illuminations show on Geneva’s Palais des Nations. Two of the campaign’s promotional videos were screened during the closing plenary of the BRS COPs, featuring Hollywood stars Pierce Brosnan and his son Paris, as well as professional tennis player Dominic Thiem. The videos will be officially released on 21 June 2022, with a separate press release to follow.
Τhe three conference meetings strengthened the mandate for international cooperation with other organizations, including the Minamata Convention on mercury, in support of the recently adopted resolutions by the United Nations Environment Assembly to forge a new international legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution, and to establish a science policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and prevent pollution.
The 2023 BRS COPs will be held next May in the Bahamas.
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS Secretariat) brings together the three leading multilateral environmental agreements that share the common objective of protecting human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes.
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