Competent Authorities and Focal Points of the BRS Conventions
Distinguished country representatives and delegates
Welcome to the Pacific Preparatory Meeting BRS COPs in June 2022. It is a pleasure and an honour to have been invited to offer a few remarks on behalf of SPREP as the Pacific Regional Centre for the Basel and Waigani Conventions – and by extension Roterdam and Stockholm as well as Minamata.
At COP 6 of the Basel Convention in 2002 agreed to establish the Pacific Regional Centre (PRC) for the Joint Implementation of the Basel and Waigani Conventions at SPREP. Since its establishment, the Centre has played a fundamental role in providing capacity-building, technical and policy assistance to SPREP member countries. The Centre also supports the effective and coordinated participation by the Pacific by convening preparatory meetings for the BRS COPs.
The BRS and Waigani conventions, the Minamata Convention, the IMO Conventions and codes along with non-binding agreements such as SAICM are Multilateral Environmental Agreements that form the global legal framework for our collective efforts manage the use and where we can rid the planet of toxic substances.
The impact of the Conventions also resonates beyond their scope. At the 2nd session of the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly, or UNEA 5.2 held earlier this year, UN member states agreed to a resolution to begin negotiations to put in place a legally binding global instrument to address plastic pollution by 2024. Our experiences implementing waste MEAs such as the BRS conventions will provide many lessons for this important intergovernmental negotiation process.
The UNEA Resolution includes a number of provisions that will provide the likely contours of the new Plastics Treaty:
First, contrary to widespread expectations, the UNEA Resolution is not limited to marine plastics or marine debris; it also covers “other environments,” including land-based sources.
Second, it not only seeks to limit or reduce plastic pollution, but aims at “the long-term elimination of plastic pollution, in marine and other environments.”
Third, it adopts a “full lifecycle” of plastic, covering all aspects of its production, use, and disposal.
Fourth, it aims to foster coordination among existing international environmental treaties to “prevent plastic pollution and its related risks to human health and adverse effects on human well-being and the environment.”
Fifth, it seeks to address all aspects of the “sustainable production and consumption of plastics,” including improved waste management, greater resource efficiency and the adoption of “circular economy” approaches.
Sixth, it underlines the importance of sustainable design so that products and materials “can be reused, remanufactured or recycled and therefore retained in the economy for as long as possible along with the resources they are made of, as well as minimizing the generation of waste.” This provision targets, in particular, single-use plastics.
Seventh, it notes specifically the need to regulate “microplastics” (i.e., the miniscule plastic fragments that are created by the breakdown of plastics over time or are intentionally manufactured into some products, such as cosmetics).
Finally, it envisages a role for “all stakeholders, including the private sector,” in achieving the treaty objectives.
The UNEA Resolution is but the first step in the treaty process, which is typical for the negotiation of multilateral environmental treaties. It established an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (the “Committee”) that will begin its work during the second half of 2022, with the aim of completing a draft treaty by the end of 2024. The Committee will be working on the draft text, and attempt to resolve big divisions over how ambitious the treaty should be. By the end of the year, the UN Environment Programme (“UNEP”) will also convene a stakeholder forum in conjunction with the first session of the Committee to share knowledge and best practices in different parts of the world. When the Committee has completed its work on the draft text, UNEP will hold a diplomatic conference to formally adopt and open the new treaty for signature
UNEA 5.2 also agreed to establish a science-policy panel on the sound management of chemicals and waste. This is a large step forward in promoting science-based action on sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020. SPREP, through the panel and other means, will continue to support your efforts in implementing the global chemicals and waste agenda.
It is essential to tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. It is our duty to face this crisis with all the tools at our disposal and tackle hazardous chemicals and wastes, throughout their lifecycle, through innovative actions.
Although chemicals and waste issues have been underplayed in the environmental agenda in the past, times are changing fast. The sustainable management of chemicals and waste is now seen as a fundamental cornerstone of the objectives in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development where the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions are highlighted as the key legally binding instruments whose implementation contributes towards achieving by 2030 all the goals of the 2030 agenda.
Colleagues, the BRS COPs, has an extensive agenda that covers all facets of their implementation which will require many of you to dedicate long hours over two weeks to get through. As your regional centre, SPREP has organized this preparatory meeting with the aim of having a talanoa with you on the agenda and identifying matters of concern to the Pacific region.
I urge you use these 2 days to share our views on the agenda of the BRS COPs and how we as a region can amplify those views to Parties from around the world. What happens at the BRS COP will also have implications for the INC process I have outlined.
I note that our region is easing travel restrictions and hope that those who can travel will make all efforts to be present in person in Geneva. We from the regional centre here in SPREP will be in Geneva to support you.
I wish you all a fruitful meeting and look forward to providing further support leading up to and during the COPs. See you in Geneva!
Sa Vinaka saka – ni kalougata!