by IISD’s SDG Knowledge Hub ,

The Secretariats of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions and the Minamata Convention on Mercury published a study inspired by the ongoing discussions on a post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The report highlights interlinkages between the work of the global chemicals and waste conventions and conventions related to biodiversity, with the aim of contributing to the refinement and implementation of a potential 2030 target on pollution.

The study titled, 'Interlinkages between the chemicals and waste multilateral environmental agreements and biodiversity: Key Insights,' seeks to enable the four chemicals and waste conventions to contribute to discussions on and implementation of the post-2020 biodiversity framework and the future work of biodiversity-related instruments.

The BRS and Minamata conventions could contribute to a 2030 target on pollution being considered under the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Pollution is one way that the two areas of work intersect. Pollution is a main driver of biodiversity loss, and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 includes a specific target on pollution: Aichi Biodiversity Target 8 calls for bringing pollution to levels that are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity by 2020. This target has not been achieved, as determined by the fifth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-5).

The report concludes that:

  • Mercury, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), pesticides, and hazardous and other wastes have negative impacts on soil biodiversity;
  • Anthropogenic mercury emissions are increasing, with severe consequences for human health and the environment, particularly biodiversity, such as mercury bioaccumulation in biota;
  • POPs persist in the air, water, and soil, with emissions from PCBs and DDT continuing to be found in biota; PCBs are associated with declines in killer whale populations;
  • Global food security is at risk due to threats to pollinators and deterioration in soil ecosystems, partly due to pesticides, with agricultural runoff being a major source of water pollution and contamination of groundwater aquifers;
  • Mismanaging hazardous wastes in large waste dumps is negatively affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services and human health, particularly for people involved in the informal recycling sector and living near dumps with open burning and other releases;
  • Plastics negatively affect marine species through entanglement, ingestion, contamination, and transport, and may also threaten terrestrial ecosystems, including soils; and
  • Climate change amplifies the effects of chemicals and is expected to contribute to the re-volatilization of both mercury and POPs. For example, melting permafrost and ice are expected to release significant quantities of both into the environment.

The authors suggest that transforming polluting sectors in developing countries, such as informal e-waste recycling, can benefit biodiversity and ecosystem services, and human health, while contributing to a circular economy. They express particular concern about the impact of mercury, POPs, pesticides, and hazardous and other wastes in combination with other chemicals, and other natural and anthropogenic stressors (such as climate change, hunting pressure, invasive alien species, emerging pathogens, and changes in food web dynamics), which are affecting biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human health. Further research is needed to increase understanding in this area, such as the effects of long-term, low-dose exposures. The authors caution that new technologies to reduce pesticide use, such as gene drives, require careful assessment due to their potentially irreversible impacts if released into the environment. They point to integrated pest management practices and agroecological farming as being preferable.

The report calls for improved and consistent environmental monitoring for POPs and mercury across regions, noting that the current convention processes for environmental monitoring and examining effectiveness are extremely valuable. It calls for fully harnessing the contributions of the BRS and Minamata Conventions to achieve the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and a potential 2030 pollution target to be contained in the framework. Conversely, knowledge and insights from collaboration with the CBD and related protocols and conventions can benefit the work of chemical and waste conventions. [Publication: Interlinkages between the chemicals and waste multilateral environmental agreements and biodiversity: Key Insights]