Geneva (25 October 2011) – Representatives of 118 members of the Basel Convention, the global treaty on waste management, have reached a historic agreement unblocking an amendment that will ban the export of hazardous wastes from OECD to non-OECD countries, known as the Ban Amendment.
The groundbreaking decision, containing a set of measures aimed at strengthening international control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes, was adopted on 21 October, the closing day of the 10th meeting of the Parties to the Convention (COP10), in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.
The ground for the breakthrough was prepared by the Country Led Initiative (CLI) to Improve the Effectiveness of the Basel Convention, initiated by the Governments of Indonesia and Switzerland at the last Conference in 2008. The effort was supported by the Government of Colombia, host of the Conference.
The so-called CLI decision allows the Ban Amendment to come into force for those countries who wish to adhere to it, but also moves forward in establishing a regime for countries who wish to trade in waste to ensure the minimization of health and environmental impacts, ensuring adequate social and labour conditions and creating new economic opportunities. It clarifies the interpretation of Article 17(5) of the Convention, setting the bar for entry into force of the Ban Amendment. The amendment will enter force once an additional 17 parties ratify it.
“The results of the Cartagena conference offer a concrete example of how transformative environmental action can serve to reduce poverty and promote a healthy environment and social equity, advancing the promise of a green, sustainable economy which will be the focus of the Rio+20 conference next year,” said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. "All too often UN negotiations can be characterized by frustration and stalemate. The Cartagena meeting provides an antidote to such perceptions and bodes well for the next round of discussions on the way forwards towards an ambitious mercury treaty that reconvene at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi next week," he added.
“In Cartagena, we have demonstrated that multilateralism works,” said Paula Caballero, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs officer who served as President of COP10.
“The striking progress made in Cartagena demonstrates how by working together Governments can find common ground on issues that have confounded agreement for well over a decade. Cartagena has given to the global community a model for achieving sustainable development in the field of waste management,” said Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.
The agreement on the Ban Amendment capped a week of negotiations between the Conference’s 700 participants. In addition to the CLI decision, the Conference in Cartagena also adopted Strategic Framework for the implementation of the Convention over the years 2012-2021, which sets out a vision, guiding principles, strategic objectives, means of implementation, and indicators of achievements. The Strategic Framework aims at strengthening the environmentally sound management of such wastes as a contribution to promoting human health, sustainable livelihoods, and eradicating poverty. Technical Guidelines were adopted on co-processing of hazardous wastes in cement kilns, environmentally sound management of mercury wastes, and environmentally sound management of used tyres, and further work was mandated on additional guidelines.
More than 25 separate decisions on matters as wide-ranging as compliance, financial assistance, private- public partnerships, and the role of the Regional Centres for Training and Technology.
The Parties also adopted the Cartagena Declaration on prevention and minimization of hazardous wastes. The declaration complements the Strategic Framework in determining the work under the Convention in years to come. It reaffirms that the Basel Convention is the primary global legal instrument for guiding the environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes and their disposal, including efforts to prevent and minimize their generation, and efficiently and safely manage those that cannot be avoided.
A key provision of the declaration recommends that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) “should consider prevention, minimization and recovery of wastes as a key contribution to advancing the three pillars of sustainable development through environmentally and socially sound economic development, poverty reduction, and protection of human health and livelihoods.”
The declaration also calls for the creation of a global methodology for accurate measurement of national waste generation. This would provide a means of gauging national efforts to make progress in waste prevention.
The Cartagena meeting was the last of three related conferences of the Parties to the major chemicals and waste global treaties held in 2011. The parties to the Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions had met in April and June 2011, respectively. Decisions on synergies between the three conventions taken at the earlier meetings depended on the concurrent agreement of COP10. The Basel Convention´s Parties adopted a substantially identical decision enhancing cooperation and coordination among the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions and agreed on joint activities in the synergies part of the 2012-2013 work programme.
The 10th meeting of the Conference to the Parties to the Basel Convention was held from 17–21 October 2011.
The eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2013. Mr. Franz Perrez (Switzerland) was elected to serve as President of the eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties.
For more information, please contact:
Ms. Katharina Kummer Peiry, Executive Secretary, Secretariat of the Basel Convention,
+41-22-917 5488, e-mail: Katharina.Kummer@unep.org
Mr. Michael Stanley-Jones, Press Officer, Joint Services of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, UNEP, +41 (0)79 730 4495, e-mail: SafePlanet@unep.org
Please also consult the web site of the Basel Convention: http://www.basel.int/
Photo credit: Basel Convention website.