At UN conference, countries boost protection against hazardous chemicals and waste

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals can enter the environment through industrial and urban discharges, agricultural run-off and the burning and release of waste. Photo: UNEP

13 May 2013 – Representatives from 170 countries have adopted a series of measures to strengthen protections against hazardous chemicals and waste during a United Nations conference in Geneva.

The conference, organized by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), brought together three UN conventions – the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm treaties – that together regulate chemicals and hazardous waste, and sought to promote synergies among them.

The three autonomous Conventions convened the joint meeting to strengthen cooperation and collaboration between the Parties to the treaties, with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of their activities on the ground. Each Convention then continued individually over the two-week period to deal with its own specific topics of the global chemicals and waste agenda before returning in a joint session at the end of the week to finalize their outcomes.

In a press conference, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said the meeting was “a unique historic event coming at a time of unprecedented change and progress in the arena of global environmental governance. The strengthening of UNEP and the synergies process of chemicals and waste multilateral environmental agreements are complementary parts of the ongoing reform to fortify the environmental dimension of sustainable development.”

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva noted that countries need to find more sustainable ways to produce food while using chemical pesticides responsibly.

“Around 70 per cent of the chemicals addressed by the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions are pesticides, and many are used in agriculture,” he said. “It is in the best interest of all countries to ensure that the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions can work together, effectively and efficiently, to address various aspects of the chemical life-cycle.”

Mr. Steiner and Mr. Graziano da Silva, along with Global Environment Facility CEO Naoko Ishii also pledged to deepen cooperation and collaboration as part of a broader effort to raise the profile of chemicals and waste issues, promote green growth and alleviate poverty.

On Friday, the conference hailed the “Geneva Statement on the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste” which welcomed the UNEP-led consultative process on financing options for chemicals and waste.

“The Parties have agreed to strengthen capacity building and technical assistance for countries by investing the savings realized over the past two years into an enhanced technical assistance programme that better meets the needs of developing countries and countries with economies in transition” said Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. “In an era of financial austerity, we have learned through synergies how to deliver more to parties while living within the economic limits faced by governments today.”

The Parties also adopted a framework for the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes and other wastes, and agreed, over the next two years, to develop technical guidelines on movements across borders of electronic and electrical wastes.

The Basel Convention regulates the export and import of hazardous waste and waste containing hazardous chemicals. It was adopted in 1989 and entered into force in 1992. It currently has 180 Parties.

The Rotterdam Convention regulates information about the export and import of 47 hazardous chemicals listed in the Convention’s Annex III, 33 of which are pesticides and 14 of which are industrial chemicals. It was adopted in 1998 and entered into force in 2004. It currently has 152 Parties.

Adopted in 2001, the Stockholm Convention regulates 23 toxic substances that are persistent, travel long distances, accumulate in organisms and are toxic. The treaty entered into force in 2004. It currently has 179 Parties.


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