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Global environmental meeting sees governments commit to action for a planet safe from hazardous chemicals and wastes

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More than 100 ministers and other high-level representatives meet in Stockholm to discuss ways of addressing the triple planetary crisis of pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss, through the sound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes.

The High-level Segment of the 2021-2022 meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS COPs) was held in Sweden today, in association with the Stockholm+50, a global event commemorating the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. Joining in the celebrations that highlight 50 years of global environmental action, the High-level Segment marks the first time in five years that ministers have gathered under the BRS COPs to discuss policies that will help protect people and the environment from the adverse effects of hazardous chemicals and wastes.

Under the theme of “Global Agreements for a Healthy Planet: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”, the High-level Segment provided leaders with a dynamic and inclusive platform to explore opportunities and foster solutions that will help tackle the triple planetary environmental crisis of pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss. All of these three crises, largely driven by anthropogenic activity and unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, are exacerbated by the unsound management of chemicals and wastes. The implementation of the three Conventions provides an overarching international legal basis for countries to address the crises and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Today we will be setting the tone for the upcoming BRS COPs, addressing a number of critical issues, from plastic and e-waste to harmful chemicals,” stated Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the BRS Secretariat. He went on to note that “for a sustainable transformation to happen, we need the buy-in of politicians and the private sector, but also the individuals.”

High-level Segment interactive discussions centered on pollution, a move towards a life-cycle management of chemicals and waste, and means of implementing the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions through the use of new technologies and innovative approaches to financing.

“Each year, one in six deaths is attributed to pollution,” remarked Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme. “But the BRS Conventions have responded to the call of tackling this crisis.”

In turn, Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, recognized the systemic importance of the Conventions as legally binding instruments that are crucial for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

Carlos-Manuel Rodríguez, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), expressed his gratitude to the BRS Secretariat for helping assess the financial needs of the Parties, thereby allowing GEF to be more strategic in delivering solutions.

Some of the key messages conveyed during the meeting touched on the need to design safe and sustainable chemicals so as to achieve full circularity in waste streams. Equally important emerged the need for governments and international organisations to invest in innovative technologies and financing. Worth noting was also the general consensus that the environmentally sound management of chemicals and wastes hinges on informing and engaging youth to advocate for a toxic-free planet.

Jan Dusík, Deputy Minister of the Environment of the Czech Republic, echoed the thoughts of many when he stressed that “the human dimension should never be understated, as we are part of the chemicals and wastes problem, and its solution.”

The conclusion of the High-level Segment saw ministers build bridges across agendas to accelerate system-wide actions articulating a path to achieve a healthy planet and prosperity for all.

In her closing remarks, Katrin Schneeberger, State Secretary and Director of the Federal Office for the Environment of Switzerland, stated that “the upcoming BRS COPs represent a concrete opportunity to take political action based on scientific assessments and the key outcomes of the High-level Segment.”

The High-level Segment took place in the Stockholm Exhibition & Convention Centre at Älvsjö, Sweden. It was held in the lead-up to BRS COPs, which will be in full effect next week.

Last year it was decided that, due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention (BC COP-15), the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention (RC COP-10), and the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention (SC COP-10) would be held back-to-back in two stages: online from 26 to 30 July 2021, and face-to-face from 6 to 17 June 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland.



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