This event was co-organized by the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and the Minamata Convention Secretariats, in collaboration with the Geneva Environment Network.

About the Global Environment Facility and its Replenishment

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established 30 years ago, on the eve of the Rio Earth Summit to tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems, and therefore plays an important role in global efforts to make the world nature positive, carbon neutral, and pollution free by 2030.

The GEF is the largest multilateral trust fund focused on enabling developing countries to invest in environmental protection and nature, and supports the implementation of major international environmental conventions including on biodiversity, climate change, chemicals, and desertification. It brings together 184 member governments in addition to civil society, international organizations, and private sector partners. Through its Small Grants Programme, the GEF has provided support to more than 25,000 civil society and community initiatives in 135 countries.

At its 59th meeting in December 2020, the GEF Council requested the Trustee, in cooperation with the Secretariat, to initiate discussions for the eighth replenishment of resources for the GEF Trust Fund (GEF-8).

The replenishment meetings provide an opportunity for contributing participants to review GEF performance and evaluate progress, assess future funding needs, and agree on a financing framework. If there is an early consensus on the strategic and programming directions, the replenishment process can be accomplished in a series of four meetings, including the pledging session. To ensure that GEF operations continue uninterrupted in future years, the GEF-8 replenishment discussions should be completed by early 2022.

The GEF-8 investment period, which will span from July 2022 to June 2026, aligns with a crucial time for the world to recover sustainably from the COVID-19 pandemic, tackle the root causes of challenges to nature and human health, and make large strides toward the 2030 international environmental goals. A final decision about the size and ambition of the GEF-8 funding envelope is expected to be taken in 2022.

The GEF has a vital role in the global efforts to make the world more nature positive, carbon neutral, and pollution free by 2030. These are very ambitious goals but as the GEF enters its fourth decade we are better placed than ever to work with our partners to make them a reality.
Carlos Manuel RODRIGUEZ, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility at the GEF Council, December 2021.

The next GEF Council meeting will take place in June 2022, and is expected to endorse the conclusion of negotiations on GEF-8.

The Chemicals and Waste Cluster

Geneva is the major hub for global governance of chemicals and waste, with the presence of four chemicals and waste conventions, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), and other global actors working towards eliminating pollution. Therefore, there is particular interest for the stakeholders following this process from Geneva to look into the GEF priorities on chemicals and waste as one of the main mechanisms supporting their implementation.

Given the cross-cutting nature of the impact of chemicals and waste, an increase in funding to support this cluster, if programmed in a more integrated manner, will help recipient countries to address the negative impact of the major environmental crises we are facing: climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

GEF and the Chemicals and Waste Cluster

The GEF supports the implementation of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, aiming at eliminating harmful chemicals. The GEF also supports the achievement of broader sound management of chemicals and waste through its support to the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

The Stockholm Convention | Adopted in 2001, Entry into force in 2004

Since 2001, the GEF has supported the objectives of the Stockholm Convention to protect human health and the environment from the harmful effects of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

Several replenishments and $1.2 billion later, communities and the environment are less exposed to the harmful effects of POPs than they were 20 years ago. Thanks to the GEF’s Small Grants Programme, civil society and community-based organizations have had their capacity strengthened to support the implementation of the Convention. The decisions adopted by the Stockholm Convention COP and the strong collaboration with the GEF and the implementing agencies provided the foundations for the impactful GEF interventions we have seen in the past decades.

However, adequate funding is needed to address those challenging chemicals listed under the Stockholm Convention after 2009, particularly since the GEF’s support has stayed at zero net growth for the Stockholm Convention since then. As we loom closer to the 2025/2028 targets for Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), more funding is also needed to assist recipient countries in fulfilling their commitments related to the elimination of the use of PCBs in equipment and the environmentally sound waste management of liquids containing PCBs and equipment contaminated with PCBs. In response, the Stockholm Convention Conference of the Parties (COP) in 2021 strongly encouraged donors to the GEF trust fund, at its eighth replenishment, to increase significantly the allocation for the Convention.

The Minamata Convention | Adopted in 2013, Entry into force in 2017

The Minamata Convention on Mercury, the youngest of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements that the GEF supports, has benefited immensely from the expertise the GEF has honed in its 30 years of experience. The GEF played a pivotal role in this Convention starting with the decision to include the Minamata Convention in the GEF Instrument, which has given flexibility and independence to the Convention.

GEF investments are providing needed resources, expertise, and strategic thinking to support the Minamata Convention parties in their efforts to ratchet down mercury supply, trade, use, and emissions, and to make mercury history. However, a robust and increased allocation to the Minamata Convention is needed to support parties to fulfil their legally-binding commitments under the Convention.

SAICM | Adopted in 2006

Adopted by the First International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM1) on 6 February 2006 in Dubai, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world, supporting the achievement of the 2020 goal agreed at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.

The GEF finances various projects implemented by SAICM.

About this Event

As the negotiations in the GEF-8 proceed, this High-Level Panel addressed the needs and solutions of the chemicals and waste conventions. Leading experts presented the status of the replenishment negotiations. Discussions focused on the GEF support to the implementation of the obligations stemming from the chemicals and waste Multilateral Environmental Agreements, the need to increase the chemicals and waste portfolio, and other thematics under this cluster, such as links with the climate and biodiversity portfolios.

Speakers

Carlos Manuel RODRÍGUEZ

CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility

Rolph PAYET

Executive Secretary, Basel Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

Monika STANKIEWICZ

Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention on Mercury

Sheila AGGARWAL-KHAN

Director, Economy Division, UN Environment Programme

Anil SOOKDEO

Coordinator, Chemicals and Waste, Programs Unit, Global Environment Facility

H.E. Amb. Franz PERREZ (Moderator)

Ambassador for the Environment & Head, International Affairs Division, Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland

Summary

Opening | GEF and the Chemicals and Waste Cluster

H.E. Amb. Franz PERREZ, Ambassador for the Environment & Head, International Affairs Division, Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland

  • The GEF replenishment is in a critical phase, and it is timely to discuss the expectations, ambitions and the needs that the Chemicals and Waste cluster may have and should have with regard to the GEF.
  • The aim of today’s session is to discuss what can and needs to be achieved for chemicals and waste policy implementation with adequate financing. The implementation of the chemicals and waste conventions is key to achieve sustained development. It is also critical to secure their financing, especially in the context of the ongoing GEF negotiations and for the future.
  • Much of our well-being, prosperity and health would not be possible without chemicals. At the same time, there are chemicals management and waste that lead to massive environmental problems, health risks, where the poorest and most disadvantaged are most affected. The sound management of chemicals and wastes also offers great economic perspectives and income.
  • In short, chemicals and waste management ideally brings together and touches all dimensions of sustainable development. It is important that a legally binding instrument that have been established in this context can be fully implemented, and this needs financial support for implementation.
  • The GEF is part of the financial mechanisms of the Stockholm Convention and of the Minamata Convention. The implementation of these can only be ensured if the financial mechanism fulfills its critical role. Therefore, the GEF has to measure, track and report the results of the GEF projects towards achieving the objectives of the conventions. A key purpose of the GEF is to support countries in meeting their obligations under various multilateral agreements including the Stockholm and the Minamata Conventions. We therefore need to ensure that implementation can be achieved with the GEF support. It is about the sound management of chemicals and waste in all countries, as well as ensuring the well-functioning and credibility of the global treaties and of the GEF.
  • Living in the 21st century, we inhabit a world where chemicals and waste regulated in the conventions are everywhere. There are thousands of chemicals on the market and almost all products we use daily contain chemicals. They must ensure that these chemicals are managed soundly and that they are safe. However, there are also issues that need to be solved in many countries, for example stocks of PCBs that need to be destroyed in line with the goals of the Stockholm Convention.
  • The current draft of the GEF-8 programming strategy proposes a shift from a traditional focal area-based approach to a more integrated approach addressing the drivers of elemental degradation and generating multiple environmental benefits at the same time. This leads to a shift of funding from the chemicals and waste focal area to the so-called integrated programs. This transition can have positive impacts but we also see the risk that funding for certain elements of the implementation of the Conventions could become insufficient. Fully addressing the PCB issues or other legacy issues, for example, might become more difficult. But you have to finally rest and unresolved issues once and for all.
  • The cost of inaction is very high. Therefore, it is important that the enhanced integration will generate more global benefits for entire chemicals and waste cluster and not run at the cost of the conventions’ implementation.
  • It is also expected that the more integrated programming approach dually considers the integrations between chemicals and waste, climate change, ocean pollution and biodiversity loss. An important step will be to increase the availability of funding for the entire chemicals and waste cluster in GEF-8 to meet our shared goals on ridding the world of the chemicals and waste that pollute our oceans and contribute to biodiversity loss, in particular in the context of climate change.
  • We have the opportunity to initiate innovative programming that leverages investments in climate change, biodiversity and combats land and ocean degradations, while ensuring progress in the implementation of the climate and waste conventions in line with the guidance developed by these conventions.

Status of GEF-8 Replenishment Negotiations

Carlos Manuel RODRÍGUEZ, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility

  • Never have I seen such an alignment in the political community and the scientific community in their recommendations. The sense of urgency, the science, and the work we’ve done throughout the years are enabling conditions for us to scale up and move the needle not only in achieving the targets of the chemicals and waste cluster, but in sustainable consumption and the production model at the global level.
  • The GEF was established 30 years ago to tackle our the most pressing environmental problems. Since then, it has become the largest and most experienced multilateral platform dedicated to helping developing countries to protect and restore nature, address climate change and deal with all the different pollution challenges. Our financing and policy support has proven to enable the vulnerable and developing countries to prioritize environmental action with a global impact. This includes the implementation of international conventions on biodiversity, climate change, chemicals and waste, desertification but also very importantly at the national and regional level, we work with countries on forest, land use, ocean, waterways and wildlife.
  • Status of GEF-8.
    • The GEF brings together 184 member governments, civil society, international organizations, private sector partner. In the last 30 years we have been able to mobilize around 22 billion US dollars in grant, and an additional 120 billion income financing for more than 5,000 projects in around 150 nations.
    • The GEF funds are replenished every four years. In the last replenishment cycle at GEF-7, we raised around 4.1 billion dollars. Currently the GEF is going through its eighth replenishment cycle which will allow us to program from 2022-2026.
    • So far, we have held two replenishment meetings with the donors and key representatives. Here, we have negotiated detailed and robust programming and policy directions. We will be having our third replenishment meeting on 2-4 February, and our fourth and last meeting next April. Thus, this event today could not be more timely given that we’re only a few weeks away from our discussions on our recently updated programming strategy and policy direction.
  • After 30 years of working to protect and concern the environment, the GEF-8 replenishment comes at a critical point, where the decisions made today will have significant impact in the future. We must strive to act now to steer away from a catastrophe. The task is not easy, but I believe that we can do it by working together with a common purpose and a shared vision.
  • It may seem that funding about one billion dollar per year standing is tiny compared to the scale of the global needs. I agree with that impression, but our impact to date has come from bringing together stakeholders in support of high-impact solutions to the roots of environmental degradation. A strong GEF-8 replenishment will thus enable us to scale high impact initiatives that support global environmental benefits in a more efficient way.
  • Last year the GEF team and I have been working tirelessly along with owners and recipients of the GEF to develop an ambitious strategy to build back better in a way that nature becomes positive, towards a net-zero carbon and pollution-free world. This is in the center of what we look at GEF but also in the context of the longer strategic vision into the GEF-9 ambition.
  • It goes without saying that the foundation of the GEF-8 strategy is the guidance from the convention that the GEF serves. However, it also builds on our unique role as the financial mechanism of five conventions, as well as our long experiences with integrated programming to address the key drivers of environmental degradation which includes a strong focus on transformational change of key economic systems to reverse degradation.
  • Our upcoming third replenishment meeting will be critically important because it’s the first time that the replenishment group will comment on the results that we are hoping to achieve through our ambitious programming. The meeting will also consider resource allocation proposals for the first time. The chemical and waste needs have been highlighted by many countries during their replenishment as a particularly important area of the GEF work requiring increased resources in GEF-8. We are hearing the same from the conventions themselves: for example, we have paid great attention to the recent needs assessment by the Stockholm Convention which we received after the COP 10 in July 2021.
  • You will see that the chemical and waste strategy in GEF-8 is significantly more ambitious in its structure to build on the momentum of the GEF-6 and 7 which are on track to eliminate over the 200,000 tons of POPs, mercury and highly hazardous pesticides, safely manage and dispose over four million tons of polluted waste and contaminated materials, and reduce over two million tons of plastic entering the ocean. The GEF-8 strategy promotes more integration within the cluster and across the GEF focal areas, and it adopts a supply chain approach to prevent the future of buildup of harmful chemicals in the environment.
  • It is important to some to highlight that the results will be one focus of our third replenishment meeting in a few weeks. All results of the chemicals and waste cluster proposed are to be achieved in two ways: one directly, from chemicals and waste resources, and second, a scope benefits for the impact programs in all the focal areas. This has allowed for a higher target than we would have been able to achieve from only our focal area resources. There is also an ambitious resource package that is being presented at the third replenishment meeting. While it is far too early to know where we will end up in terms of allocation, in every scenario, there’s a significant increase for chemicals because we know there are great needs in this area.
  • We all know the GEF funding will never be enough which is why we have the GEF-8 strategy to attract even greater interest and buy in from the private sector, which we have learned from our previous programming. The approach that we are taking on supply chains is designed to incorporate private sector for the greater outcomes that we could ever achieve with only working with the public sector.
  • We have an enormous amount of work to do over the GEF-8 and 9 period on POPs, mercury and the sound management of chemicals and waste. I believe that we have designed a strategy that will address the need of the countries and the obligations of the conventions in an integrated way that propels us toward to our collective goals.

Anil SOOKDEO, Coordinator, Chemicals and Waste, Programs Unit, Global Environment Facility

Additional details on the GEF-8 strategy and programming directions on chemicals and waste.

  • The strategy has the ambition to set the foundation and be relevant all the way to 2030 (in other words for both GEF-8 and GEF-9).
    • GEF has a unique mandate of managing elimination of chemicals pollution, biodiversity conservation and protection, mitigation of climate change, prevention of land degradation and protection of international waters. In addition to what Carlos said on global drivers, I would add that chemical pollution is driven by every economic sector and without interest in pollution, the resilience of ecosystems will suffer as well as human health will continue to be compromised.
  • In terms of how we design the strategy to respond to the chemicals and waste conventions, we recognize that without addressing pollution we cannot fully address environmental degradation. As such we have ensured that clear linkages have been made in the GEF-8 proposal to guide programming in the next four years. The chemicals and waste portfolio has an increasing share of multi-chemical and multi-focal area projects and programs which bring more synergy and benefits to the chemicals cluster, promotes the sound management of chemicals and waste and accrue benefits to other focal areas including climate change, land degradation and international waters.
  • In addition to the robust results we’ve been achieving since GEF-6, we’ve also seen that enhanced synergy in the cluster and alignment with other focal areas that has facilitated programming to eliminate over two million tons of plastics entering the oceans, restoring degraded land in mine sites and in agriculture, reduce carbon dioxide emissions from different industrial processes, bring in the private sector not only as co-financiers of GEF projects but as partners working together to address pollution. We’ve also worked to unlock commercial financing to achieve better practices and technology to reduce hazardous pesticides in agriculture and create circular solutions for various things such as textiles, electronics, and plastics.
  • Our programming of the convention provides an entry point for the sound management of chemicals and brings in dedicated financing support for policy and institutional change and capacity building, bringing in the private sector to work on the sound management of chemicals and waste.
    • Some of our more recent examples are in the ISLANDS Program which brings together 33 small island developing states to tackle pollution in key sectors and in supply chains through unlocking policy, strengthening policy legislation and capacity, bringing in the private sector, and unlocking donor finance.
    • Another example is the farm program working in eight countries to address the use of hazardous chemicals in agriculture including POPs and highly hazardous pesticides, as well as agricultural practices by adopting practices to use non-hazardous or non-chemical practices and technologies, strengthening legislation and policy knowledge sharing and working with the best site producers and end users of agriculture.

In GEF-8, we fully expect to be able to build upon the lessons we’ve learned and expand on transforming key economic systems to eliminate as far as possible hazardous chemicals from the supply chain.

  • In terms of the actual strategy, the GEF-8 chemicals and waste strategy builds upon what we’ve done in GEF-6 and 7. We’ll work under the guidance of the chemicals conventions to address POPs, mercury, ozone-depleting substances, and some aspects of SAICM. However, it is designed to work in a more coherent way that provides synergies across the focal areas, with other focal areas, and integrated approaches that are being proposed.
    • A critical part of the strategy and its shift from GEF-7 is the adoption of a supply chain approach to prevent future build-up of harmful chemicals in the environment. In doing so, we hope to eliminate hazardous chemicals entering the environment. We still have legacy issues to deal with such as PCBs.
    • Objective three of the GEF-8 chemicals and waste strategy will cover legacy chemicals and the GEF is committed to supporting the 2025-2028 deadline of the Stockholm Convention, where the countries prioritize the safe disposal of PCBs to meet their phase-out targets. These will be covered by the GEF-8 strategy.
  • In addition to eliminating the inflow of new hazardous chemicals and the cleanup of old ones, we will continue to develop the enabling conditions within countries through policy reform and coherence, capacity building, and improving access to technology, science and knowledge. The photo below illustrates how it is tied to the broader agenda and how we’ve actually put together the GEF-8 strategy. The documents of the replenishment are posted on the website.

    • To achieve our vision of preventing harmful chemicals, halting nature loss and ensuring that the world is on a carbon neutral and nature positive by the end of the decade, we are proposing an ambitious set of 10 integrated programs (IPs) that address all the drivers of environmental degradation complemented by focal era strategies that will ensure that conventional obligations are met.
    • To read this diagram, IPs on the left column are providing results to the focal areas at the top. IPs are designed to provide multiple benefits of the five environmental conventions we work on plus in international waters. The integrated programs can be seen to deliver multiple global environmental benefits across all focal areas served by the GEF. For chemicals, the expectation is that the results will accrue to the focal area from IPs without significant use of chemicals and waste resources, as we have already demonstrated in GEF-7.
  • To this end we hope to deliver about three to four times the level of GEBs that we have been able to do in GEF-7. This will ensure more impact in terms of results and a positive action for the environment.

Carlos Manuel RODRÍGUEZ, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility

  • Last year, we received valuable information from the Conventions regarding the financial needs. I want to highlight the need to have more data and information about financial needs not only at the global, but also at the regional and national levels.
  • In GEF-8, we are proposing to increase the funding from 20 to 53 percent. That is great but we need to be conscious that we can even double the allocation of resources for chemicals and waste in GEF-8, and that will never be enough to really narrow the needs of the countries.
  • I would strongly recommend doing two things which are important: one, build on those efforts to really pinpoint the financial needs at the global level with regards to all conventions; and second, understanding how much domestic resources are being mobilized at the country level. It’s not easy but it’s relevant. With that, we will have a good sound economic information on the needs, gaps and how we can work together through a strategic approach for more integration of chemical management. We can develop the policy frameworks to promote a sound management of all chemicals at the country level.
  • During GEF-8, we will need to work on the financial needs: how do we address the gaps? How do we assess how much resources are being mobilized by domestic resources at the country level? With that set of information, we can even be more strategic in how we design projects that can give us more policy coherence at the country level. It can help us mobilize more efficiently domestic resources because all countries are investing their public resources in the implementation of all conventions.

The Chemicals and Waste Cluster Needs

The Stockholm Convention | Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary, Basel Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

  • Having this discussion in Geneva is very important as it gives an opportunity for missions and other international organizations in Geneva to be aware of the progress that is being made in the GEF replenishment and overall, the various chemicals and waste multilateral environment agreements operating here.
  • I will focus my presentation today on three main issues. First is on the implications of the outcomes of the triple BRS COPs held online in July. Second, the need for cross-cutting considerations to increase our visibility on the chemicals and with cluster at the policy level, the national local levels and among the different stakeholders such as the private sector and other community organizations. Finally, I would like to elaborate on the importance of measuring the results and impact of our work in the implementation of the GEF projects as these are critical elements in showing the effectiveness of the methods we are using, among which the implementation model modalities seen in Anil’s presentation.
  • Outcomes of BRS COPS. Over 160 parties from the BRS Conventions joined online and took essential decisions to ensure the continued work of the three conventions. More importantly, I refer as well to the fifth review of the financial mechanism of the Stockholm convention and the report of the funding needs.
    • In summary, the review of the financial mechanism concluded that although the GEF has responded adequately to the COP decisions of the Stockholm Convention, the financial resources for POPs in the GEF have not been commensurate with the evolution and progress of the Convention. This means that there are a number of chemicals that are being listed at every COP and we need to also prioritize this within the limited funding that’s available, within the allocation for chemicals. This is of concern to parties as we have the 2025 and 2003 guidelines set out. There will be significant resources required to phase out and address PCBs, and right now with the current replenishment levels, we have some concerns.
    • The outcomes of the needs assessment report for GEF-8 also suggests that we need about 5 billion USD to protect people and environment from persistent organic pollutants. That’s a huge sum and almost half of that will be needed for us to address PCBs. The reason for us to put our heads together and put our resources together is to see how we can achieve significant progress over the next three to four years.
  • Cross-cutting considerations to increase our visibility on the chemicals and with cluster in other areas and in the integrated programming. We should explore how we can increase those contributions significantly so that we can then measure the impacts of those contributions once we’ve implemented those integrated programs.
    • The integrated programs are an essential way for us to synergize, optimize and engage a wide range of stakeholders from different sectors, from biodiversity to climate change, and other sectors in addressing the issue of chemicals and waste, where the key global issues are very much integrated and linked. Pollution from the perspective of the sound management of chemicals indeed is the driver for these kinds of long-lasting environmental degradation.
  • Measuring results and impacts. In GEF-8 and 9, the continued focus of the GEF on integrated approaches and cross cutting programming has the potential to ensure the most effective and efficient use of GEF resources- Fostering cross-cutting programming between chemicals and waste and other GEF focal areas will help us to mitigate the impact of pollution on climate change as well and to reduce the loss of biodiversity. We need to showcase some of these results. We have to show what works and what doesn’t, what we’ve learned and how this can be scaled up, how this can be duplicated and replicated, how this can be solved in the most cost-efficient way.
    • There are a lot of opportunities for us under GEF-8 and for us to make progress in those areas as well. We can learn from successes in other regions especially dealing with the complexities. When dealing with increasing complexities of cross-cutting approaches, we need to better understand how chemicals and waste and POPs work supports the integrated program and at the same time achieve the targets set for chemicals and waste focal area.
    • This is very important because we can have these great integrated programs, but if at the end of the day we cannot measure and specifically point to those achievements which relate to the targets or to the decisions made by the parties to the Stockholm Convention then we would have to go back and redesign the project to be effectively measured. We would highly appreciate the establishment of a group on knowledge management and communication across the whole chemical service cluster.
  • We understand that the meetings of the group are less frequent than in pre-COVID-19, but we look forward to continuing and pursuing this important work as fruitful discussions in that group has allowed us to measure the effectiveness of the Stockholm Convention but also with implementing agencies to ensure when they develop projects they put in the right criteria, the right indicators to ensure that we can measure the effectiveness of our work on the ground.

The Minamata Convention | Monika STANKIEWICZ, Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention on Mercury

  • During this year, our parties has been very clear and quite vocal on the importance of GEF-8 to the full implementation of the Minamata Convention and to overcoming challenges related to deadlines of the convention that are said to reduce or eliminate emissions and use of mercury from across sectors.

Full implementation is realistic. The Minamata Convention is achievable. When its text was negotiated, countries came together around the sensible and achievable set of obligations. The convention implementation has also excellent momentum in its early years, and now it’s time to fully invest and help parties to get it right.

  • The work we must invest in has a dual imperative for both health and nature. Last year, the WHO Director-General released new estimates on the public health impact of chemicals. The trend is going into the wrong direction: 2 million lives and 53 million disability adjusted life years were lost in 2018 due to chemicals exposure, and this is likely an undercount. Mercury and other chemicals have numerous impacts and dependencies upon natural capital and ecosystem services which are not captured in traditional financial accounting. To conserve and enhance ecosystem services globally, the depletion of natural capital due to mercury and other chemicals must be assessed across the economic sectors.
  • The eighth replenishment of GEF trust fund is a key part in emphasizing the needs to quantify and evaluate the environmental and social costs of mercury emissions and releases. Implementation of the obligations of the convention will produce socio-economic benefits and will be essential to realizing the full potential of ecosystem services. Our parties recognize the role that action on mercury can and must play in overcoming the interconnected challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution including the oceans while improving the health of millions of people and addressing the drivers of environmental degradation. An adequately financed GEF-8 will advance these interconnections to create meaningful and sustainable social, environmental, and financial gains.
  • The GEF funding unlocks larger investments and benefits. This catalytic role was envisaged when the convention text was adopted. The convention tells us that domestic funding, bilateral and multilateral funding, and private sector engagement will all play a key role in this effort. GEF must realize its potential to unlock this.
  • One of my points today is that a significantly increased allocations for chemicals and waste is needed. Specifically to the Minamata Convention, as we are moving from enabling activities and proof of concept programs, parties had a detailed discussion on GEF-8 at the online segment of COP-4 in November (the second in-person segment of COP-4 will be held in March in Bali, Indonesia).
    • The Secretariat’s shared party statement with GEF secretariat and council members, I urged parties at that meeting to engage in the national processes relative to the GEF and GEF operational focal points to ensure that the national needs related to the convention are fully known to the participants in the replenishment meetings. This is the most important message I would like to send today to the countries: to use your national processes on GEF replenishment to the fullest.
  • We also had the lively side event on the financial mechanism at COP-4. We must make the science rationally based for our work to be clear and accessible to a wide range of decision makers across ministries and stakeholders. This is an issue that cannot be overestimated going forward into GEF-8. It will be important to carefully consider what the GEF projects will measure. It will be important to share that information widely to demonstrate the success.
  • We are now analyzing the first full national report on the implementation of the convention that were due by the end of December last year. This will provide a great detailed information party needs that we can use to ensure that the GEF investments leads to effective, integrated and inclusive responses that are well-grounded in national initiatives and whole-of-the-government approaches.
  • We intend to be very active in feeding this information into the programming of GEF-8 resources. This information will not yet at that stage provide monetary value on domestic investment currently being undertaken that Carlos is rightfully calling for. However, it will clearly indicate areas and countries where implementation has progressed well and issues where efforts are needed. This information to my mind is what any young convention like Minamata should or would start with.
  • Parties need to meet numerous time-bound obligations which will be prominent in GEF-8 and this will cut across many industrial sectors and product categories that are critical in the Build Back Better era.
  • For example, our parties are required in article 8 of the convention to control emissions of mercury to air from coal-fired power plants, coal-fired industrial boilers, non-ferrous metal production (led, zinc, copper, and industrial gold), cement production and waste incineration. We can see these sectors represent a sizeable part of most countries’ economies and are vital to everyday life.
  • What are parties required to do? They need to establish a emission inventories no later than five years from when the country becomes a party. They are required to use the best available techniques and best environmental practices in new sources within five years, and for existing sources implement control measures within 10 years.
  • Another looming deadline is 2025 phase-out of mercury-based chlorine and caustic soda production or alkali production. Facilities that use non-mercury processes are much more energy-efficient than outmoded mercury-based facilities, yet some countries are facing financial barriers into achieving this switch. They also need technical assistance to manage this transformation cleanly.
  • There is also our most famous sector which is artisanal and small case gold mining. I’m very proud that the UNEP Global Mercury Partnership and the Minamata Convention have drawn needed attention to this sector and the GEF has made great progress working with parties and mining communities through the planetGold Program. The sector must continue to be addressed in a very thoughtful and careful manner to achieve full implementation of the convention, especially for those in countries for whom this sector present represents a real challenge including impacts to vulnerable populations, including women and children and indigenous peoples.
  • Finally, it would be remiss not to mention mercury as a commodity chemical. It is stored, traded and in some cases stockpiled. This can be well managed or poorly managed, and our parties very much would like to manage it well. They are very intent to eliminate illegal mercury trade which requires training and legal structures at the regional and national levels that are well integrated into the broader supply chain management efforts. To have GEF-8 emphasize supply chains is a very welcome component.
  • Several elements of the programming directions draft that will be finalized next month in the replenishment meetings are important to the Minamata Convention. Not only does the chemical and waste focal area needs to be fully resourced but other focal areas and integrated programs should not waste any opportunity to address hazardous chemicals in relevant sectors. Thank you, Carlos Manuel for highlighting this as well.
  • To realize this in practice, I think a deeper knowledge in other areas of the value of chemical and waste should be promoted. I would like to wrap up by saying that the GEF-Minamata convention projects to date have achieved important and a very good result. GEF-8 holds the promise to achieve even broader scale impacts. This work is worth more than every dollar of the investment that the world will make in GEF-8.

SAICM | Sheila AGGARWAL-KHAN, Director, Economy Division, UN Environment Programme

  • This is a very important year for SAICM because we’ve had delays in being able to convene the meetings. We’re hoping to being able to resume with IP-4 and ICCM-5, if we can meet physically to really come together to agree on the kinds of targets and indicators that are going to be so critical for dealing with the pollution crisis.
  • We’ve seen a lot of good work from the GEF in trying to support the SAICM process so far but we’ve also seen the SAICM process evolve quite a bit from looking at individual chemicals to moving towards clusters of chemicals. However, it’s a worry: when I try to ask, “Can any of us really say that we have a safe, pollution-free environment that works for the economy or is it still that the economy and the environment and human health are all separate things?”
  • While we’ve had some very good successes: we’ve seen good work with POPs on the Stockholm Convention and the plastic amendment coming through now with BRS. We’re seeing good work on mercury, but I wonder if we’re playing catch-up constantly. I wonder if in 10 years, when we’ve all moved to other jobs, will we still have a pollution crisis? I think we will because I don’t feel that we have managed to figure out what to do when we’ve got thousands of chemicals coming into the environment. We deal with what we feel is the highest priority but there’s a zillion others coming in where we either don’t know the environment and human health impacts. We play catch-up when we find out what it is and then we try to address it.
  • We’ve been having discussions with our partners in the IOMC Partnership (Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals) and with the SAICM bureau to think through: is this the right way? Do we need to be looking at instead of chemicals in clusters which is very important, but maybe also to look at sectors? Is this sector operating in the best way possible?
    • For example, we have a very big transporter mobility program and it’s pushing towards e-mobility. However, when you look at and think about e-mobility, we’re going to have lots of mining on lithium. Lithium batteries will last longer than lead-acid batteries, and because lithium is valuable it’ll be recycled.
    • However, there are challenges with recycling it. What happens at the end? Do we have a pollution crisis on our hands both at upstream and then further downstream when the batteries are no longer usable? We’re seeing a huge issue with lead-acid batteries already. We’ve prioritized other issues on lead, and we have only a few countries working on lead-acid batteries. Here we have lead impacts that are hurting the IQ of many informal workers and their families.
    • I love the idea of the impact programs and the integrated programs, but I wonder when we’re looking at sectors, maybe we need to be looking at how do we deal with some of these pollution crises that are coming through them? If we’re dealing with transport, are we looking at lead in lead-acid batteries, and lithium, and all the way across the value chain? Upstream from mining to get in a circular economy approach so that at the end of the day we don’t have pollution in these sectors?
    • Or will we stay dealing with little clusters of chemicals, which, while important and has a dent in the whole system, makes us wonder whether it will have a big enough dent to say that we’re really addressing the issue?
  • We’re seeing that countries don’t have the basic chemicals management capacities in place. While the special program has also created some impact and that the GEF’s enabling activities have created some impact, I wonder if we’re really at the level where we can say all countries have enough of the basic chemical management systems and capacities? And that they are not starting from scratch because there’s a lot of data out there on risks and all that that could be harnessed and that could really help some of the countries leapfrog to build better capacities?
  • If we were to take an approach that really strengthens countries basic capacities plus looks at sectors, I think it would really complement some of the chemical-specific work that is ongoing. Maybe in a handful of years, we would be able to say we have brought the pollution crisis to a level where the climate crisis is. However, right now what I see is that the pollution crisis is very far behind us. In fact, most people don’t even know this: from the textiles they use, the food they eat, they either don’t know or don’t know how to cope with it. It would be a very interesting journey.
  • I’m always inspired when Carlos speaks and in seeing your leadership and how you push things. You’re ready to break barriers to think, “How do we make this pollution crisis something that will go to a very different height from where it is today?”
  • With our work on green chemistry and with a manual set up, the key challenge is how do we set in place a market that will really harness the opportunities in different sectors for green chemicals. There was talk about the financing and we can mobilize financing. Between the GEF’s catalytic financing plus other innovations and financing, this will be the key to unlocking how we deal with the pollution crisis.
  • As we go forward with SAICM this year, and as we move forward towards targets and indicators, I’m hoping that we will be able to really set in motion the enabling environment that really pushes the bar in ways that we haven’t done. That we can break the boundaries and really evolve SAICM in a way that, with the GEF’s support, will be able to deal with this pollution crisis that we see today.

Reactions to Interventions | Carlos Manuel RODRÍGUEZ

  • Regarding Sheila’s comments about the pollution crisis, it was surprising to read this week that the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022 had many environmental-related elements in the top 10 most severe risks. However, pollution was not there even though there’s so much science that tells us that the pollution crisis at this point is probably stronger and more dangerous than that of climate and even biodiversity. This means we have got a big challenge in front of us
  • Second, when Rolph told us about the 5-billion-dollar financial needs, I think that that may be a very conservative number. Nevertheless, if we compare this with the global financial gap in terms of climate and biodiversity, this is very much within our reach. If we really understand that if we invest in more policy coherence – aligning all public and private investment with the conventions – the financial need may decrease dramatically and a combination of a strategic mobilization of ODA plus domestic resource mobilization can be a way through which in the next decade, we will move from “catching up” to “going ahead of the curve”.
  • Third, we will never mobilize our domestic resources more efficiently and we will never have a higher impact with our limited ODA resources if we keep on believing that the institutional frameworks that we have in place at the country level is the right one to achieve progress on chemicals and waste.
  • The case of Costa Rica is a good example. Chemicals and waste are not an issue of the ministry of environment. It’s an issue of the ministries of environment, health and agriculture. I have never seen a minister or vice-minister of health or agriculture that knows about chemicals and waste. Or even having a vice-minister say with expertise on environmental engineering.
  • They’ve only been trained to promote business solutions in their sector in the agricultural sector and in health, they are exclusively concentrated on human health and don’t do the connection between human health and environmental health. It is very important for us that GEF is working with the Conventions and the parties on how we can generate a political dialogue and discussions where we one can begin conversations and political dialogues. In the same way that we need to fully use the market and the economic policies in our favor, we need to address the institutional failures and we need to work on being able to go beyond the sectors and the silos. That will give us a much better ground for action at the country level because countries will understand that is in their own self-interest to mobilize more efficiently domestic resources to avoid the very serious impacts of pollution on human health and on ecosystem health.
  • If we compare ourselves with the other environmental sectors and the financial challenges, I think it is within our reach in the next decade to be just catching up in terms of action and moving ahead of the curve. That is why we have this approach in GEF-8, where we got a good expectation that we will be ahead of the curve by GEF-9.

Discussion on Solutions

Anil SOOKDEO

  • GEF is not a financial mechanism for the Basel Convention, however, several of the wastes that are captured in it, fall under Stockholm and Minamata Conventions. E-waste is one of those and we have, since GEF-5 into GEF-6 and now into GEF-7, GEF-8 and GEF-9, been funding and continue funding projects that address e-waste from the perspective of reducing emissions. More recently in GEF-7, some of these projects that we have funded take on aspects of trying to find circular solutions to addressing e-waste.

Rolph PAYET

  • The Basel Convention is quite an old convention set up before the GEF and, as a result, the parties did not appoint GEF. Through the different COPs the Basel Convention established various mechanisms to address electronic waste, and rightly so electronic waste is now very much a top priority.
  • There are several decisions now going before the Basel Convention to look at electronic waste in a greater way. There is a proposal in fact from Switzerland so we are looking forward to the next COP and I am hoping the parties will be giving some more attention and more importance to this very critical issue.

More coming soon.

Closing

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