A briefing on chemicals and waste, organized within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network provided an overview of work and key activities to advance the sound management of chemicals and waste globally. It updated participants on the status of negotiations related to chemicals and waste and on relevant conferences taking place in 2022.
During the event, Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention, briefed participants on the two segments of the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 4): an online segment in November 2021, and an in-person segment in Bali, Indonesia, in March 2022. Among the major developments she mentioned:
- A decision on international cooperation ensuring the Minamata Convention will be an integral part of global collective effort to address the triple planetary crisis;
- Preparation of a report on possible contributions to the post-2020 global biodiversity framework;
- Continuing good collaboration with the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) conventions Secretariat; and
- Inclusion of gender as a standalone item on the agenda of the COP, and the decision to prepare a gender action plan.
She also highlighted the Bali Declaration on Combating Illegal Trade in Mercury, and expressed gratitude for including chemicals and waste, including mercury, as a priority issue in the 8th replenishment of the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund (GEF-8).
David Ogden, Chief, Governance Branch, BRS Conventions, presented an overview of the BRS COPs, including an online session from 26-30 July 2021 and a face-to-face segment, which will take place from 5-17 June 2022 under the theme, ‘Global Agreements for a Healthy Planet: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste.’ He noted progress made during the recent meeting of the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) of the Basel Convention, including on the terms of reference for the follow-up partnership to the Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE). He said the High-level Segment of the BRS COPs will take place on 1 June 2022 in Stockholm, Sweden, in connection with the Stockholm+50 conference, noting this will be an opportunity to raise awareness on the contributions of the BRS Conventions to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Sandra Averous-Monnery, Chemicals and Health Branch, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), highlighted UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) resolutions on chemicals and waste, including on:
- The sound management of chemicals and waste, which includes provisions on an integrated approach to financing, issues of concern, and UNEP’s framework manual on green and sustainable chemistry;
- The Science-Policy Panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution; and
- Biodiversity and health.
Nalini Sharma, Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), discussed the SAICM Beyond 2020 process. She noted an effectiveness evaluation showed the SAICM 2020 goal (the achievement of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health) has not been achieved. She said this was due to the widening capacity gap between developed and developing countries, and identified the need to: improve sectoral and stakeholder engagement; increase sharing of information and knowledge; secure stable finances and resources; and improve the monitoring framework to better assess progress and address emerging policy issues.
Sharma reviewed virtual intersessional work, and said postponement of international chemicals meetings provided the opportunity to build more linkages between SAICM and other global processes, resulting in the establishment of four Virtual Working Groups on: targets, indicators, and milestones; governance and mechanisms; issues of concern; and financing. She noted, inter alia:
- Enhanced work on emerging policy issues, broadening knowledge management, and expanding partnerships with technical and scientific networks as well as with downstream sectors and chemical-intensive value chains;
- The GEF’s increase of funds for the chemicals and waste cluster, which resulted in significant increases in SAICM resources;
- Sixteen countries passing legislation to phase out lead in paint, and 21 paint producers in seven countries receiving support to eliminate lead in paint, as a result of the SAICM-GEF process;
- SAICM’s launch of an e-learning course on industrial chemicals databases and information sharing on the InforMEA platform;
- The launched a study by the Secretariat on industry involvement in the integrated approach to financing the sound management of chemicals and waste; and
- The approved 2022-2023 programme budget for SAICM, which includes developing a capacity-building strategy.
Felix Wertli, Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland, provided the Swiss perspective on major negotiations in 2022. He highlighted the “historic” resolution on plastic pollution approved at UNEA-5, noting that one of the most challenging aspects of plastics management relates to recycling, given the additives that plastics contain. He looked forward to welcoming participants to the BRS COPs in Geneva in June.
The briefing took place in a hybrid format on 28 April 2022. The Geneva Environment Network is coordinated by UNEP, with support from the Government of Switzerland. [Chemicals and Waste Briefing and Webcast]