This briefing, organized within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network, provided an overview of the status of the negotiations related to chemicals and waste and upcoming important conferences.

About this Session

This Chemicals and Waste briefing, organized within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network, provided an overview of the work and key activities to advance the sound management of chemicals and waste globally. It also presented the latest information on the important conferences scheduled in the second half of 2022 and in 2023.

  • 4th meeting of the Intersessional Process considering the Strategic Approach and sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020 | 29 August to 2 September 2022, Bucharest, Romania, and 2023
  • 1st Session of the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG1) of the Science-Policy Panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution | Nairobi and online, October 2022 and 2023
  • 16th Meeting of the COP to the Basel Convention, the 11th meeting of the COP to the Rotterdam Convention and the 11th Meeting of the COP to the Stockholm Convention (BRS COPs) | Geneva, May 2023, as well as subsidiary body meetings leading up to the BRS COPs
  • 5th Session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) | Bonn, Germany, September 2023
  • 5th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury | Geneva, October-November 2023

Speakers

By order of intervention.

Monika STANKIEWICZ

Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention on Mercury

Monika MACDEVETTE

Head, Chemicals and Health Branch, UNEP

David OGDEN

Chief, Governance Branch, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

Claudia TEN HAVE

Senior Policy Coordination Officer, Minamata Convention on Mercury

Andrea LECHNER

Programme Officer, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

Pierre QUIBLIER

Programme Officer, Chemicals and Health Branch, UNEP

Kevin HELPS

Principal Officer, Science-Policy Panel on Chemicals, Waste and Prevention of Pollution, UNEP

Michel TSCHIRREN

Waste and Chemicals Focal Point of the Global Affairs Section, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment

Summary

To be continued.

Welcome and Introduction

Monika STANKIEWICZ | Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention on Mercury

On the Minamata Convention, Science and Human Rights

The Minamata Convention turned 5 on 15 August 2022, and it was an occasion to remember that the science is needed in nearly all aspects of the Convention.

  • In the 15th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant in July, issues such as linkages between the climate change and mercury pollution, artisanal and small scale gold mining, and the effectiveness valuation of the Minamata Convention Global Mercury Transport and Mercury in Southern Hemisphere were tackled. 4 scientific papers relevant to our work will be published, which the Convention will help make widely known.
  • The newly established open-ended scientific group tasked to support the first evaluation of the effectiveness of the Convention is another example. The group is working with unprecedented transparency and inclusiveness: it is open to one member from each party, in addition to the Convention’s roster of experts nominated by countries and organizations. Initiated by the Secretariat, the roster currently consists of some 70 experts who can follow the work and can be called upon to provide input.
  • Two studies being prepared and finalized with funding from Sweden: one on ecosystem services and mercury, and one on the socioeconomic impact of mercury pollution on fisheries and livelihoods. The studies are a follow-up to the COP-4 decision on international cooperation, which for the first time recognised the importance of addressing mercury pollution in connection with the global loss of biodiversity.
  • One of the outcomes of the CBD open-ended working group on the post-2020 framework in June 2022 is a new reference to mercury pollution and other heavy metals added to the first draft of the framework for further negotiations. This reference if it remains in the final text will naturally allow the connections between the two Conventions to be stronger and would allow for more integration.

Mercury and Human Rights

  • The latest annual thematic report by the UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Marcos Orellana, was dedicated to the harms and risks for human rights of the use of mercury in small scale gold mining, where it is used to extract gold from ore causing substantial emissions to the environment globally. It will be presented to the 51st session of the Human Rights Council on 20 September, 15:00 CEST, and followed by
  • In most small-scale gold mining locations where mercury is used, the human rights for miners, their families and communities, and indigenous people and traditional landowners are increasingly compromised by mercury contamination.

Geneva Toxic Free Talks

Monika MACDEVETTE | Head, Chemicals and Health Branch, UNEP

UNEP has a four-year medium-term strategy operationalized through two successive biennial programmes of work.

  • Focus areas. Two UNEA-5 resolutions in March 2022, are particularly important to the Chemicals and Health Branch: resolution 5/7, the sound management of chemicals and waste, and resolution 5/8, the science policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste, and to prevent pollution.
  • Other UNEA resolutions that draw on the branch’s expertise to ensure a comprehensive and integrated contribution to delivering UNEP’s overall mandate and ensuring the issues of chemicals and waste are considered across all of UNEP’s work.
  • The Nairobi and Osaka teams’ work are also to be highlighted, particularly on air pollution, sustainable mobility and e-vehicles, n waste management and waste technologies, especially in the context of circularity from e-waste to lead-acid batteries and plastic waste management.
  • Critical as well to our work is the link between environmental health and human well-being, particularly through the IOMC interagency partnership with key partners such as WHO. We also work on antimicrobial resistance or AMR.
  • As the work of the branch is increasingly regarded as integral to the division and unit’s work on circularity, engaging with industry and delivering our work in a country context has taken on a higher profile in delivering our global work in a national context and with relevance to keep high impact in sectors.

UNEP’s medium term strategy for 2022-2025 is well underway, including with the revised delivery model, aligning the delivery to be more strongly integrated with UN country teams and country priorities for UN intervention and support.

We cannot succeed without partnerships. These include engagement with governments, for whom we’re deeply grateful for the continued financial and collegial support, and for the guidance in implementing the resolutions that are given to us.

David OGDEN | Chief, Governance Branch, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

A lot has changed over the 33 years in this business. In 1989, the life expectancy globally was 60 years old, and in 2022, it’s 70 years. People are living longer, but as you do, it extends the period in which you can acquire cancer as it often takes many years to develop. With aging populations, you have more opportunity for toxics to transfer from the environment — from food, water, and other sources — to collect in your body over time and create these toxic effects.

That is why we’re here to try to make sure that people can live longer, healthier lives, and still benefit from these chemicals. These are very valuable products, either as the chemical themselves, an alternative chemical, or even a non-chemical alternative.

Since 1989, most of the MEAs were negotiated, adopted, and entered into force, and so they play a great role in this global regime to manage chemicals and waste, alongside other international organizations and national bodies. They are key into developing the science to understand the risks of these chemicals, what alternatives could be, how we can prevent exposures that could lead to cancer.

From being very small in an international sense, now it’s huge. We’ve learned that international cooperation is great for preventing pollutions that cross boundaries, but it’s also great for sharing science and know-how. We share and everyone benefits. Lives are really being saved because of the work we’re doing.

Basel entered into force in early 1990s, and Stockholm and Rotterdam around 200. We had synergies when we brought the three conventions together in 2012, which I think has been a big success. More recently, our work on plastics and e-waste is cutting edge stuff I’m proud to be part of BRS and proud to be proud of this this bigger community.

I’ve never seen this level of attention on chemicals and waste my entire career and it’s really great to hear from all of you. It’s a lot of work, it’s very important and it will benefit many — environment and people.

Minamata Convention on Mercury

Claudia TEN HAVE | Senior Policy Coordination Officer, Minamata Convention on Mercury

Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

Andrea LECHNER | Programme Officer, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management

Pierre QUIBLIER | Programme Officer, Chemicals and Health Branch, UNEP

 

UNEP Chemicals and Health Branch, and the Special Programme

Monika MACDEVETTE | Head, Chemicals and Health Branch, UNEP

 

Science-Policy Panel on Chemicals, Waste and Pollution Prevention

Kevin HELPS | Principal Officer, Science-Policy Panel on Chemicals, Waste and Prevention of Pollution, UNEP

The first meeting of the ad hoc open-ended working group (OEWG 1) on a science-policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution, convened pursuant to resolution 5/8 of the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly will take place in two parts:

  • Session 1 procedural, confirmed as one-day hybrid in Nairobi – 6 October 6 2022
  • Session 2 substantive, in Bangkok week 30 January-3 February 2023

Following OEWG1

  • Brazil have re-confirmed interest in OEWG 2 (provisional Oct 2023)
  • Switzerland still interest in OEWG 3
  • Leaves time for intergovernmental meeting in later half of 2024

Q&A

Closing Remarks

Michel TSCHIRREN | Waste and Chemicals Focal Point of the Global Affairs Section, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment

As highlighted during this briefing, a lot of important work is happening in the Chemicals and Waste Cluster and major progress was made and needs to continue.

Minamata Convention on Mercury

  • 5 years of Minamata convention! Congratulations and thanks to the Secretariat for the hard work.
  • Important step: Establishment of the Open-ended Scientific Committee for the Effectiveness Evaluation. The evaluation is foreseen by the convention text and to have a scientific foundation for it is crucial.

 Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

  • We took note that the BRS COPs can take place in Geneva. It is unexpected and Switzerland stands ready to support. Very positive that Geneva has the facility and the Chemicals and Waste cluster that will contribute to a successful BRS COP in May 2023.
  • It will be an important meeting. For the Stockholm Convention, many chemicals are proposed for listing, including for example, UV-328, pertinent also in the Plastic INC context. I
  • We are looking forward to the chemicals in plastics reports by UNEP and BRS. They support the endeavor to use synergies and avoid duplication.

SAICM

  • IP4.1 in Bukarest was a successful step towards the new framework after a challenging period for that process. Now important to keep up the work. From the discussion it seems key that:
    • Objectives and targets must be ambitious and clear. Milestones and indicators need to be prepared as soon as possible.
    • Industry needs to be involved. Accordingly a target or several targets to that end are important. Industry sector strategies and work on standards are proposed and are important for SMCW.
    • The process can only be a success if the secretariat is well financed. To that end a voluntary scale of assessments should be adopted.
    • Include in the new framework the possibility for Governments to request a review and expertise is another voluntary element that will strengthen the new framework. The voluntary peer review is another positive element of the current compilation document.
  • Overall for the new framework. the IOMC organizations will play a very important role and again this is an opportunity for Geneva to facilitate coordination and action as many of those institutions are in Geneva.

Science and Policy Platform

  • The SPP OEWG will soon establish its bureau and adopt its procedures and appoint the chair. That is crucial and should be rather straight forward and take place at the one day meeting in October.
  • For the SPP OEWG it will be important to include from the start not just the environment community but also other sectors in particular the health side and therefore the WHO. This is rooted in the UNEA res and has been reiterated since then by many stakeholders. Also at the saicm IP4 in Bukarest. And also here today by Kevin.
  • The SAICM stakeholders also included draft language in the compilation document about the relationship between the future framework – its conference and the future SPP. The international conference (of the framework) can consider the SPP assessments. Moreover it can invite the SPP to make reports on certain topics that are part of the framework. This approach makes a lot of sense and other Governing bodies will want to have that relation to the SPP.

Video

In addition to the live and social media transmissions, the video of the event will be available on this webpage.

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Live from International Environment House

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Previous Chemicals and Waste Briefings

28 April 2022 | 27 May 2021 | 16 December 2020 | 4 July 2019 | 12 June 2018 | 26 February 2018 | 22 June 20175 April 2017 | 30 November 2016 | 26 April 2016 | 26 January 2016 | 26 November 2015 | 8 September 2015

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