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Highlights on the 2015 COPs can be accessed from the Earth Negotiations Bulletin website.

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Interview: Science as the Bottom Line

Abiola Olanipekun, Chief of the BRS Scientific Support Branch, explains that rigorous and inclusive scientific processes underpin the 3 conventions

Interview: Science as the Bottom Line

Interview: Science as the Bottom Line

Interview with Abiola Olanipekun, Chief of the BRS Scientific Support Branch by Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer

Charlie Avis: Abiola, why will a Science Fair accompany the forthcoming triple COPs of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions here in Geneva, from 7-9th May 2015? 

Abiola Olanipekun: Thank you. We are staging a 3 day Science Fair in order to raise awareness amongst delegates, parties and stakeholders, concerning how science underpins the implementation of the three conventions. The event will feature interactive displays, special events, film viewings, hands-on exhibits, panel discussions, lots of presentations and posters, and this diversity reflects the enormous range of stakeholders who together are moving forward the agenda for sustainable management of chemicals and waste.

CA: How does science underpin the conventions’ implementation, then?

AO: The science/policy interface is of supreme importance, in a world shaped by often largely political and economic interests. Right since the negotiation and adoption of the three Conventions, a sound scientific base was seen as necessary to give the Conventions both the information, and the credibility, they need in order to pursue their goals of protecting human health and the environment.

CA: More specifically?

AO: Scientific analysis is central to every step of the process. For example, when a chemical is proposed for listing under the Stockholm Convention, a party is to submit a proposal, accompanied by a scientific justification for the need for global control. Scientific evaluation is carried out by experts from various countries from all United Nations (UN) regions, who are involved in the work of the respective technical subsidiary bodies under the Conventions. These experts sign a “declaration of conflict of interest” meaning that they will not pursue any financial interests or influence by a commercial entity to enter into their deliberations. Further steps requiring inputs from the scientific community include risk mitigation through identification of suitable alternatives and the search for Best Available Techniques and Best Environmental Practices. Guidelines for monitoring, capacity-building on the implementation of alternatives, assistance with reporting obligations, and a host of other activities are also undertaken based on state-of-the-art science and objective expertise.

CA: It sounds like a lot of work. Is it bearing fruit?

AO: Yes, the good news is that according to our data, people and the environment are less exposed to certain Persistent Organic Pollutants (or POPs) than previously. The trend is definitely downwards with respect to chemicals listed in the Convention annexes. But at the same time, we have our work cut out: since new chemicals are entering the market – and therefore entering our environment and our bodies, all the time.

CA: Please tell me about this good news, what are you actually measuring? 

AO: We are mandated to carry out a global monitoring programme to measure POPs concentrations in the air, water and in human populations (breast milk and maternal blood) and have been implementing this global programme since the entry into force of the Stockholm Convention in 2004. Within 11 years of existence of the Convention, a rich and extremely valuable global POPs monitoring dataset has been generated. These data are compiled into Regional and Global Monitoring Reports every six years. The first reports were published in 2009, showing baseline concentrations of POPs in all UN regions, and the second round of reports are being issued in the next weeks and will focus on the identification of trends in exposure to POPs over time.

CA: And what do the data show?

AO: The trends are definitely downwards! This demonstrates the effectiveness of the Convention. For the first time, these monitoring data are also made available through a global monitoring plan data warehouse and information system which can be accessed at http://www.pops-gmp.org/  The development and adoption of technical guidelines for environmentally sound management of wastes under the Basel Convention is also critical in ensuring that hazardous wastes are managed in a manner to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects which may result from such wastes.

CA: Very impressive indeed. What are the major challenges for the Conventions, in terms of the scientific underpinning for implementation?

AO: Capacity. Many developing countries lack the capacity – or resources - to effectively engage in the scientific processes, meaning that it is challenging to ensure that their inputs are properly integrated. This is especially problematic because exposure to certain types of chemicals and pollutants is often higher in developing countries than elsewhere – for example in the by-hand and informal recycling of electronic waste.

CA: How do you respond to that?

AO: The Secretariat has a very full technical assistance programme, and all efforts are made to include the regional perspectives, including through the designated Basel and Stockholm Conventions  Regional Centres, and by bringing developing country delegates to the relevant meetings. Financial support from our “donor” partners is very necessary for this. But beyond that, we need to better assist parties to mainstream scientific approaches and evidence into national development planning processes, to encourage sharing of information between parties and between sectors, to integrate the chemicals and wastes issues into the wider development agenda, and to ensure that these issues are properly reflected in the planning and definition of the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to strengthen the “synergies” at all these different levels and scales.

CA: And the Science Fair, is it the first step towards that?

AO:  Not the first step, but a very significant step, yes. There is no time to waste. I would like to thank the donors and hosts of the Science Fair – the governments of Finland and Switzerland respectively – for supporting us to highlight the importance of Science to Action: Working for a Safer Tomorrow.

BRS’ Mario Yarto explains how new chemicals get listed on www.unep.org

As part of the “Countdown to the Triple COPs” on UNEP’s Ask-an-Expert interactive portal, ask BRS Programme Officer Mario Yarto all you need to know about how the chemical listings processes work.

BRS’ Mario Yarto explains how new chemicals get listed on www.unep.org

BRS’ Mario Yarto explains how new chemicals get listed on www.unep.org
 
International Chemicals Chief Eyes Ambitious Agenda for 2015 Conference of Parties

By journalist Bryce Baschuk from Bloomberg

International Chemicals Chief Eyes Ambitious Agenda for 2015 Conference of Parties

International Chemicals Chief Eyes Ambitious Agenda for 2015 Conference of Parties

By journalist Bryce Baschuk from Bloomberg
Source: Daily Report for Executives: News Archive > 2015 > February > 02/06/2015 > Regulation & Law > Hazardous Substances: International Chemicals Chief Eyes Ambitious Agenda for 2015 Conference of Parties

Feb. 5 — The United Nations' climate change negotiations in Paris may be 2015's environmental cause celebre, but Rolph Payet wants the world to remember that toxic chemicals should be a front-burner topic in Geneva.

“Chemicals and waste are also very important,” said Payet, the new executive secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions. “If we don't manage them properly, they can affect the environment in more or less greater ways than climate change,” he told Bloomberg BNA during a recent interview in Geneva.

During Payet's first four months in office, the former Seychelles minister for environment and energy has been hard at work preparing chemical stakeholders for what he hopes will be a momentous year.

Specifically, he is seeking to establish firm guidelines for the management of electronic waste and mercury, adopt a new chemicals and waste compliance mechanism and list several toxins at the May 4–15 BRS conference of parties (COPs) in Geneva.

Compliance Mechanism

The issue most at stake at the 2015 BRS COPs is the successful adoption of a compliance mechanism to increase transparency and enforcement of international chemicals and waste management, Payet said.

In May, parties to the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions will consider rules to ensure that countries are applying the relevant management and customs procedures for chemicals that are listed as harmful to human health and the environment.

“We do need certain minimum levels of practice so that this international system will work,” he said. “A compliance mechanism for those two conventions is therefore a priority for the COPs.”

The Rotterdam Convention requires countries that export restricted chemicals to adequately notify the receiving country. The Stockholm Convention requires parties to prohibit the production, use and trade of certain persistent organic pollutants.

E-Waste Awareness

Payet said he hopes parties to the Basel Convention—which defines limits on the cross-border movement of hazardous waste and its disposal—will adopt clear guidelines on how to deal with the hazardous and costly effects of electronic waste, or e-waste.

E-waste from discarded mobile devices and computer equipment is considered hazardous due to the presence of toxic materials such as mercury, cadmium, asbestos and lead.

“Televisions, computers and mobile devices contain a range of hazardous substances,” Payet said. “When they end up as e-waste—for example in the landfill—they will leach out into the environment and create problems.

“Ten years from now we don't want to look back and say we wish we could have done something more about it,” he said.

Draft Technical Guidelines

Last year, the United Nations issued its latest draft technical guidelines on the transboundary movements of e-waste.

The guidelines seek to establish the difference between hazardous and non-hazardous e-waste, provide guidance on the transboundary movements of e-waste and offer inspection guidelines for enforcement officials to control the transportation of e-waste.

“Parties are sending signals that say: ‘Look, let's have particular guidelines because the problem is growing and we need to work on it,’ ” Payet said. “I am committed to supporting parties by all means to adopt those guidelines.”

Members of the Basel Convention COP will consider the e-waste debate May 8–12. “I hope the guidelines will be adopted by this COP,” he said. “You have to be ambitious.”

Mercury Poisoning

Payet said he is equally optimistic that parties will adopt the draft technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of mercury waste in 2016.

“Mercury is a toxic chemical and we need to take actions to reduce and eliminate anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury,” he said. “On the policy side, I believe it will come into force by next year. The trend I've seen is certainly encouraging.”

He added, “There is a lot of work to be done in the dentistry sector, for example, because a lot of us are walking around with amalgam in our teeth. As for mercury thermometers, there are many alternatives.”

New Chemical Listings

Payet said he plans to work closely with members of the chemicals industry to help prepare them for the listing of new chemicals.

“I encourage industry to monitor closely which chemicals are being discussed, and which chemicals the science is showing are toxic, with a view to developing a strategy for slowly phasing out harmful chemicals and addressing some of the challenges,” he said.

Payet said he's optimistic the Rotterdam Convention COP will list paraquat dichloride formulation, an herbicide considered toxic to humans and animals, during its May meetings.

“Listing a chemical in Annex III to the Rotterdam Convention does not constitute a ban on its use,” he said. “Parties that considered it safe to do so could still use the chemical, but the exchange of information required for chemicals listed in Annex III would enable them to use the chemical in a more informed manner with information received from exporting countries.”

Payet said he hopes parties will support alternatives to the use of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) in countries that depend on it for controlling the spread of malaria. In May, the Stockholm Convention COP will review measures to reduce or eliminate releases from intentional production and use of DDT.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bryce Baschuk in Geneva at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

For More Information

The UN's draft technical guidelines on the transboundary movements of e-waste are available at http://bit.ly/1Ax48Mm.

Draft technical guidelines for the environmentally sound management of mercury waste are available at http://bit.ly/1v2tzyk

Science-based decision-making key to the COPs

For three days on the margins of the COPs, the BRS Secretariat and its partners will present the scientific basis for sustainable management of chemicals and waste, at the Science Fair, 7-9 May 2015.

Science-based decision-making key to the COPs

Science-based decision-making key to the COPs
 
Why are the meetings of the COPs Important ?

As 2015 begins, David Ogden, Chief of the Conventions Operations Branch, tells us why.

Why are the meetings of the COPs Important ?

Why are the meetings of the COPs Important ?

An explanation of the significance of the forthcoming 2015 Meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions

Interview with David Ogden, Chief of Conventions Operations Branch, by Charlie Avis, Public Information Officer, BRS Secretariat

Charlie Avis: David, please tell me, why are the triple COPs in 2015 important?

David Ogden: Well, the triple COPs - or the 2015 Meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, to name them in full - are the principal platform for proposing sustainable solutions, based on sound science, to protect human health and the environment from the possible adverse effects of hazardous chemicals and waste. Together, the three conventions represent not just a governance structure, but also a set of tools and shared capacities for assisting governments implement these solutions. So what happens at the triple COPs in May next year will influence the direction the Parties take sustainable chemicals and waste management for the next two years, and beyond.

CA: What will be discussed?

DO: Some key guidance documents, which are developed to assist countries put in place the necessary arrangements for implementation, will be discussed at the COPs. In particular, draft Technical Guidelines on E-Waste, on POPs waste, and on Mercury waste, will be on the agenda. Also, Parties have put forward a number of new chemicals for possible inclusion in the Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention processes: this is a key step for sustainably managing those substances, if they are found to present harmful threats to human and environmental health. Also, the new work programme for 2016-17 will be discussed, including a number of key initiatives such as ensuring appropriate technical assistance for the regions, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Stockholm convention.

CA: E-waste sounds interesting. Why is E-waste on the agenda?

DO: E-waste is a rapidly growing waste stream – mobile phone usage is very high across the world and many devices don’t last very long. We need proper recycling, reuse, and disposal of these appliances, because they are for example full of heavy metals and other potentially hazardous substances. Gram for gram, there is more gold in a mobile phone than in retrievable gold ore, so it is also an opportunity and a real, economic, resource. But recycling and disposal needs to be done in a way which is also safe for workers, good for society as a whole, and also good for the environment. Hence the draft Technical Guidelines, which will assist governments with appropriate procedures on transboundary movements of E-waste.

CA: You mentioned science in your opening remarks: why is science so important to all of this?

DO: The Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm processes are scientifically-driven. There is a need first to identify and then to understand the risks from chemicals and waste, in order to be able to propose alternatives and sustainable approaches to their management. “Science is the judge” for whether chemicals and waste are listed, and eventually banned, or not. After that, socio-economic factors influence the types of measures used to address the risks. All aspects of the Conventions’ decision-making are therefore underpinned by rigorous, international, cooperative scientific analysis. To help explain how this works, this time we are organising a Science Fair to bring these complexities to a wider audience.

CA: What is the Science Fair?

DO: Together with our partners – governments as well as civil society, and the private sector – we will stage a three-day Fair, highlighting how science is used to inform all the different steps for deciding and implementing the different aspects of the three conventions. From 7th to 9th May, we will showcase work from all over the world, employing a variety of media including videos, interactive exhibits, panel discussions and others. The Fair reflects the overall theme of the meetings of the COPs, which is “From Science to Action: Working for a Safer Tomorrow”.

CA: For a Safer Tomorrow: a good place for us to stop. Thank you for your time. 


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