Published: 06 Jan 2021

Given the continued uncertainties arising from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including those related to restrictions on travel and the convening of large physical gatherings, major environmental negotiations initially scheduled to take place this year have been postponed.

United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA)

On 9 October 2020, the Bureau of the UN Environmental Assembly agreed that the Fifth Session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) will take place in two-parts. The first session will be conducted virtually on 22-23 February 2021 with a revised and streamlined agenda that will focus on urgent and procedural decisions. Substantive matters that require in-depth negotiations will be deferred to a resumed in-person session of UNEA-5 in February 2022 in a format to be defined and agreed on at a later stage.

Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS MEAs)

Basel Convention OEWG

On 9 July 2020, the Bureau of the OEWG of the Basel Convention agreed to hold the OEWG-12 according to two components consisting of an online segment and a face to face segment.

Online segment: The online segment consisted of two online sessions held over two days, on Tuesday, 1 September 2020 and on Thursday, 3 September 2020.

Face to face segment: The face-to-face segment of OEWG-12, previously scheduled for 1 to 4 March 2021, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 situation. Further information on the scheduling of the meeting will be made available in early February 2021.

BRS MEAs Notification
Impact of COVID-19 on BRS meetings | Regularly updated


The fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (BC COP-15), the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (RC COP-10) and the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC COP-10) will be held back to back from 19 July to 30 July 2021, in Geneva. The meetings will include joint sessions covering matters of relevance to at least two conventions and separate sessions of the meetings of the each of the three COPs, and will feature a high-level segment. The theme of the meetings and the high-level segment will be “Global Agreements for a Healthy Planet: Sound management of chemicals and waste“.

BRS MEAs web note

Convention on Biodiversity Diversity (CBD)

Subsidiary Bodies

The formal meetings of the twenty-fourth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA 24) and the third meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI 3), originally scheduled for May 2020 but postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, will be held later in 2021. Further information in this regard will be provided in due course, following further consultations through the respective Bureaus. However, in order to maintain momentum in the preparation for the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) and related meetings, including important work related to the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, informal sessions of SBSTTA and SBI will be convened virtually, as follows:

  • Informal session in preparation for SBSTTA 24: 17-19 February and 24-26 February 2021
  • Informal session in preparation for SBI 3: 8-12 March and 14 March 2021

CBD Notification | 6 January 2021


The second extraordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention and the first extraordinary meetings of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol and the Nagoya Protocol took take place virtually in November 2020.

As approved by the Bureau, the fifteenth meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-15), originally scheduled for October 2020, was scheduled to be held on 17-30 May 2021, in Kunming, China.

CBD Press Release | 15 July 2020

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Animal and Plants Committee

The CITES Standing Committee has advised the CITES Secretariat that the 31st Meeting of the CITES Animals Committee (AC31) and the 25th meeting of the Plants Committee (PC25) should be postponed until 2021.

Standing Committee

The 73rd meeting of the CITES Standing Committee was scheduled to take place from 5 to 9 October, in Geneva, but the meeting will not be taking place on those dates. The uncertainty caused by the pandemic has led the CITES Secretariat and the Members of the Standing Committee to discuss the circumstances in which the meeting should be held.

CITES News Release | 16 July 2020

A webpage has been created to provide information on the Intersessional work of the Standing Committee – 2020-2021

Minamata Convention on Mercury

Fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP4)

The Government of Indonesia will host the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention at the Nusa Dua Convention Centre, Bali, from 1 to 5 November 2021.

The intersessional work towards COP4 has been slightly adapted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. An overview of the calendar of the meetings planned is available here.

Ramsar Convention

Standing Committee

The 58th meeting of the Standing Committee (SC58) has been canceled, and the outstanding agenda items that were not addressed at the intersessional meetings held on 22 and 24 June 2020 will be addressed at the 59th meeting (SC59) in 2021. The Standing Committee has decided that decisions that are required by the Rules of Procedure to enable the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP14) to take place as planned should be taken intersessionally. The Secretariat of the Convention will inform all Contracting Parties and observers of the dates of SC59 in due time.

Cancellation of the 58th meeting of the Standing Committee | Ramsar | 2 October 2020

Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM)


The German government, in consultation with the ICCM5 President and IP Co-Chairs, has announced the necessity of postponing the Fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) from 5 to 9 October 2020 to 5-9 July 2021.

SAICM update message | 9 April 2020

Intersessional Process

The ICCM5 Bureau and the co-chairs of the Intersessional Process (IP) have proposed that the intersessional process continues its work on some key issues through a variety of virtual means, including the following online Technical Briefings.

United Nations Biodiversity Summit

The United Nations Summit on Biodiversity was convened by the President of the General Assembly on 30 September 2020, at the level of Heads of State and Government under the theme of “Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development.” The video and summary of the event are available online.

Official website

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

In line with its COVID-19 response, the UNFCCC secretariat is currently not convening any physical meetings. But the work in 2020 remains critical for making progress on climate change and, as the Executive Secretary has outlined, is not in any form on hold.


The Bureau of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, with the UK and its Italian partners, agreed new dates for the COP26 UN climate conference, which will now take place between 1 and 12 November 2021 in Glasgow.

UNFCCC COP26 Presidency Press release | 28 May 2020

Subsidiary bodies

The Fifty-second session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SB 52 conference), scheduled to take place in October 2020, has been postponed to 2021. The new dates are to be confirmed.

UNFCCC Press Release | 23 June 2020

United Nations Ocean Conference

The UN Ocean Conference scheduled to take place from 2 to 6 June in Lisbon, Portugal, has been postponed per decision 74/548 adopted by the General Assembly on 13 April 2020. Co-hosts of the Conference Kenya and Portugal in consultation with the General Assembly will decide on future dates for the Conference, including timelines for the preparatory process.

Official website

United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea

In light of the developments in relation to the impacts of COVID-19, the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, on the topic of “Sea-level rise and its impacts”, scheduled for 22 to 26 June 2020, has been postponed until 2021. Specific dates to be determined by the General Assembly.

Official website

IUCN Congress

In view of the sanitary situation associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, France and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have decided to postpone the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which was to be held in January 2021 in Marseille. The IUCN World Conservation Congress 2020 will now take place from 3 to 11 September 2021 in Marseille.

IUCN Q&A on the Congress | regulary updated

Climate Ambition Summit

The virtual Climate Ambition Summit co-hosted by the United Nations, the United Kingdom and France, in partnership with Chile and Italy, on 12 December marked the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Paris Agreement. The summit was a “sprint to Glasgow,” where the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is scheduled to take place in November 2021.

Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference

Taking into account the developments related to the pandemics, the opinion of the Host country (the Republic of Cyprus), the Calendar of events and holidays in 2022, and additional information provided by partner organizations’ representatives the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy (CEP) Bureau agreed to recommend to the Committee on Environmental Policy to reschedule the Ninth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference for 5-7 October 2022.

WTO Ministerial Conference

The Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12), originally scheduled for June 2020, has been pushed back to the tentative date of 7 June 2021 and will be hosted by Kazakhstan in Nur-Sultan. Given the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, an ongoing review of the proposed date is carried out. More information and updates can be found on the WTO website.

UN Convention to Combat Desertification

The fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 15) is expected to take place in the final quarter of 2021. Information will be updated when available.