10 May 2019: The 2019 joint Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions achieved several notable outcomes, including: the establishment of a compliance mechanism under the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade; the listing for elimination of dicofol and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts, and PFOA-related compounds under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs); and the adoption of an amendment to address certain plastic wastes under the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary of the “Triple COPs” notes that the decision to address plastic wastes “was welcomed with raucous cheers, as delegates celebrated the global agreement to take action on this pressing and complicated issue.”

Parties to the Basel Convention also adopted technical guidelines on environmentally sound management (ESM) of electrical and electronic wastes (e-wastes), while an Expert Working Group will continue working to answer questions about the export of wastes for refurbishment – an issue that many characterize as a loophole that allows end-of-life products to be exported under the guise of “repairability.”

Plastic waste is acknowledged as one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues.

The Stockholm Convention COP also yielded decisions to end some of the exemptions for the continued production and use of certain industrial chemicals. These decisions were welcomed by many who saw these as evidence that this “living” Convention is capable of effectively addressing substances that are economically important but pose significant risks to human health and the environment.

The decision to adopt a compliance mechanism under the Rotterdam Convention COP9 followed 15 years of discussion. COP9 delegates took the unprecedented step of voting to establish a new annex that would delineate procedures and mechanisms to facilitate Parties’ implementation of their obligations. This new mechanism will assist Parties to identify and address gaps in complying with the Convention, with the aim of ensuring that governments have the information they need about hazardous chemicals to assess the risks and take informed decisions when importing chemicals.

The Triple COPs were attended by over 1,700 participants and took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 29 April to 10 May 2019. Negotiations at Basel Convention COP14, Rotterdam Convention COP9, and Stockholm Convention COP9 focused on Convention-specific issues as well as issues of joint concern to at least two of the three Conventions, including cooperation and coordination among the Conventions to address issues such as waste containing POPs.

In his closing statement, Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary, BRS Conventions, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), highlighted the decision to address plastic waste through “a legally-binding, globally-reaching mechanism for managing plastic waste.” Plastic waste, he said, “is acknowledged as one of the world’s most pressing environmental issues, and the fact that this week close to 1 million people around the world signed a petition urging Basel Convention Parties to take action here in Geneva at the COPs is a sign that public awareness and desire for action is high.”

Hans Dreyer, Executive Secretary, Rotterdam Convention, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), highlighted that the COPs “were able to list two out of seven candidate chemicals and will continue working closely with Parties to identify feasible alternative solutions to hazardous pesticides, taking due account of food security and market access aspects.” [IISD RS Summary of the Triple COPs] [BRS Conventions Press Release]