24 May 2023, Geneva Switzerland - The curtain has fallen on the United Nations Triple Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions (BRS COPs) where delegates from the Pacific islands amplified their national and regional priorities in a bid to achieve the objectives of the multilateral environmental agreements for the sound management of chemicals and waste.
Held in Geneva from 1 to 12 May 2023, Pacific delegates played a key role in the outcome of the conference which adopted joint decisions on technical assistance and financial resources, including a new resource mobilisation strategy. The COPs also advanced work on the illegal traffic and trade of hazardous chemicals and wastes, amongst other matters.
Throughout the conference, Pacific delegates actively participated and amplified their national positions on issues discussed.
Vanuatu for example highlighted the challenges faced by Small Island Developing States (SIDS) when following the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) of the Basel Convention (BC). The PIC provides all parties with an opportunity to make an informed decision as to whether they will consent to future imports of the chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention.
“Vanuatu as a SIDS does not have the technical capacity to deal with hazardous waste and appreciates that other countries can be able to take our waste to dispose them in an environmentally sound manner. However, Vanuatu also notes that responses to notifications for consent can take very long,” said Mrs Roselyn Bue, of Vanuatu. “Vanuatu supports that one of the proposed ways forward such as the electronic system approach can be beneficial to improve the BC PIC procedure.
Vanuatu also called on the BC to do further work on plastic waste the ongoing work by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.
“As a SIDS, Vanuatu faces challenges to deal with plastic waste. Vanuatu has however banned the use of single use plastics, plastic forks, spoons, artificial flowers and polystyrene takeaway boxes. We are also working on a Product Stewardship scheme targeting containers and Pet bottles are included,” Mrs Bue said.
“We note the activities outlined in the draft plastic waste document and we would like support specifically for the quantifying of quantities of plastic waste leaked into the environment and to identify priority areas for reducing such leakage not only by our country but also from transboundary movement. We note garbage patches on our very isolated islands. The data can be used for decision making. We are also developing a database on chemicals and hazardous waste and we would like more information on products of concern because we also import a large number of plastic products and would like to include this in the database.”
On the Rotterdam Convention, Samoa made an intervention on the listing of the pesticide paraquat in Article 3 of the Convention, which is consistent with current steps being taken in Samoa for a possible ban to paraquat.
“Samoa once again strongly supports the listing of the liquid formulations, containing paraquat dichloride formulation in Annex III to the Rotterdam Convention,” said Mr Seumalo Afele Faiilagi, the Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Division of Environment and Conservation of Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE). “The decision will support Samoa’s effort currently underway in reviewing of the Paraquat situation in our country for a potential total ban of paraquat in Samoa. Once again Madam President, this is to ensure an environmentally sound management of chemicals to protect our island’s environment and human health.”
Pacific delegates also featured prominently at side events during the two-week conference.
The Cook Islands delegation for instance delivered a presentation during a side event on the work of the Basel Convention Implementation and Compliance Committee (ICC). The Committee exists to assist Parties to comply with their obligations under the Convention and to facilitate, promote, monitor and aim to secure the implementation of and compliance with the obligations under the Convention. During the Cook Islands presentation, they highlighted the challenges in implementing the BC and requested special assistance by the ICC.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), as the Pacific Regional Centre for the Basel and Waigani Conventions – and by extension Rotterdam and Stockholm as well as Minamata Conventions, supported the Pacific’s participation through SPREP’s Hazardous Waste Management Adviser, Mr Joshua Sam.
The 2023 meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions (BRS COPs) convened under the theme, ‘Accelerating Action: Targets for the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste.’