Why are the meetings of the COPs Important ?

An explanation of the significance of the forthcoming 2015 Meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions

Interview with David Ogden, Chief of Conventions Operations Branch, by Charlie Avis, Public Information Officer, BRS Secretariat

Charlie Avis: David, please tell me, why are the triple COPs in 2015 important?

David Ogden: Well, the triple COPs - or the 2015 Meetings of the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, to name them in full - are the principal platform for proposing sustainable solutions, based on sound science, to protect human health and the environment from the possible adverse effects of hazardous chemicals and waste. Together, the three conventions represent not just a governance structure, but also a set of tools and shared capacities for assisting governments implement these solutions. So what happens at the triple COPs in May next year will influence the direction the Parties take sustainable chemicals and waste management for the next two years, and beyond.

CA: What will be discussed?

DO: Some key guidance documents, which are developed to assist countries put in place the necessary arrangements for implementation, will be discussed at the COPs. In particular, draft Technical Guidelines on E-Waste, on POPs waste, and on Mercury waste, will be on the agenda. Also, Parties have put forward a number of new chemicals for possible inclusion in the Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention processes: this is a key step for sustainably managing those substances, if they are found to present harmful threats to human and environmental health. Also, the new work programme for 2016-17 will be discussed, including a number of key initiatives such as ensuring appropriate technical assistance for the regions, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Stockholm convention.

CA: E-waste sounds interesting. Why is E-waste on the agenda?

DO: E-waste is a rapidly growing waste stream – mobile phone usage is very high across the world and many devices don’t last very long. We need proper recycling, reuse, and disposal of these appliances, because they are for example full of heavy metals and other potentially hazardous substances. Gram for gram, there is more gold in a mobile phone than in retrievable gold ore, so it is also an opportunity and a real, economic, resource. But recycling and disposal needs to be done in a way which is also safe for workers, good for society as a whole, and also good for the environment. Hence the draft Technical Guidelines, which will assist governments with appropriate procedures on transboundary movements of E-waste.

CA: You mentioned science in your opening remarks: why is science so important to all of this?

DO: The Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm processes are scientifically-driven. There is a need first to identify and then to understand the risks from chemicals and waste, in order to be able to propose alternatives and sustainable approaches to their management. “Science is the judge” for whether chemicals and waste are listed, and eventually banned, or not. After that, socio-economic factors influence the types of measures used to address the risks. All aspects of the Conventions’ decision-making are therefore underpinned by rigorous, international, cooperative scientific analysis. To help explain how this works, this time we are organising a Science Fair to bring these complexities to a wider audience.

CA: What is the Science Fair?

DO: Together with our partners – governments as well as civil society, and the private sector – we will stage a three-day Fair, highlighting how science is used to inform all the different steps for deciding and implementing the different aspects of the three conventions. From 7th to 9th May, we will showcase work from all over the world, employing a variety of media including videos, interactive exhibits, panel discussions and others. The Fair reflects the overall theme of the meetings of the COPs, which is “From Science to Action: Working for a Safer Tomorrow”.

CA: For a Safer Tomorrow: a good place for us to stop. Thank you for your time.