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Basel Convention Working Group Prioritizes Issues Ahead of June COP

Meeting face-to-face for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal “tackled a prioritized agenda” ahead of the second segment of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15.2) in June 2022. Negotiators advanced work on plastic waste, electronic waste, waste lead-acid batteries, and mercury waste, among other issues.

The second segment of the 12th meeting of the OEWG (OEWG-12.2) convened from 4-6 April 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya, with virtual participation for those who were unable to attend in person. 

Delegates tackled agenda items in four broad categories: strategic; scientific and technical; legal, governance, and enforcement; and international cooperation and coordination.

Under strategic matters, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) reports, “delegates considered whether to develop a new strategic framework and conduct an effectiveness evaluation of the current framework.” No agreement was reached, and parties and observers will submit comments on these issues prior to COP-15.2. Delegates also “concluded work on the development of draft guidelines for environmentally sound management (ESM), which included a draft practical manual for stakeholders to ensure that notifications of transboundary movements meet ESM requirements.”

OEWG-12.2 considered updated technical guidelines on:

  • the ESM of wastes consisting of, containing, or contaminated with persistent organic pollutants (POPs);
  • incineration on land and on specially engineered landfills;
  • the identification and ESM of plastic wastes and their disposal; and
  • the ESM of wastes consisting of, containing, or contaminated with mercury or mercury compounds.

Delegates also considered whether to update the technical guidelines for the ESM of waste lead-acid batteries, and on national reporting, including draft practical guidance on the development of national inventories.

Participants urged that further work to update the plastic waste technical guidelines fully reflect the decisions on plastics taken at the face-to-face segment of the fifth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2), held in March 2022. Some called for a moratorium on plastic waste shipments while Africa carries out an assessment on plastic waste using the new guidance on inventories for national reporting. One delegate indicated that updated technical guidelines on plastic waste “would constitute an important contribution by the Basel Convention toward realizing the binding international instrument on plastic waste” envisioned by UNEA 5-2.

In addition, the OEWG discussed issues around follow-up to the Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE), deciding on amendments to the terms of reference (ToR) of the follow-up partnership, for the inclusion of new types of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste), and the proposed work programme for 2022-2023, which is expected to be adopted by the COP. 

Addressing priority agenda items ahead of time allows sufficient time for discussions on more contentious or critical issues at COP-15.2, such as low-POP content, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), and plastics. COP-15.2 will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 6-17 June 2022. [IISD Summary Report of OEWG 12.2] [Basel Convention Press Release]