Opening remarks on the occasion of the 21st Global Meeting of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, 3-5 October2019, Berlin, Germany

By Mr. Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary

Ms. Monika Mac Devette, Deputy Director of Ecosystems Division, UNEP and Head of Marine and Coastal Ecosystem Branch ( ad interim)

Mr. Rüdiger Strempel, Executive Secretary, Helsinki Convention (HELCOM)

Distinguished Directors,

Distinguished colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure and an honor for me to be here with you today representing the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions at this 21St Global meeting of the Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans hosted by the Helsinki Convention.

I would like to start by thanking the organizer for inviting us to participate in this meeting which we hope will be a step towards further strengthening the cooperation and collaboration between the Chemicals and wastes conventions and the regional seas conventions and action plans, in particular on those areas were  interlinkages in our work can be identified, such as land based sources of marine pollution or plastic pollution.

So being here today is a dream come true – Many of you do not know but I was the interim coordinator for the Nairobi Convention for more than 10 years, and joining the BRS Secretariat, I am celebrating 5 years today in the UN is an honour to be able to see how we can link our regional conventions to three important international conventions.

Chemicals are a part of our daily lives. They improve our lives, our health, food security and much more, but when misused and mismanaged, hazardous chemicals and wastes threaten our health and the environment.

The Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, released in May this year states that “Coastal waters hold the highest levels of metals and persistent organic pollutants from industrial discharge and agricultural run-off, poisoning coastal fish harvests. Severe effects from excess nutrient concentrations in certain locations include damage to fish and seabed biota. The dynamics of ocean and airborne transport of pollutants mean that the harm from inputs of plastics, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and ocean acidification is felt worldwide, including with consequences for human health”.

It is a fact that at least 10% of the 100 million tons of plastic we use every year end up in the oceans. This is the equivalent to the weight of 700 billion plastic bottles. Put on tops of each other these bottles would reach further than the sun. But unfortunately, they will never leave our planet, they are going into our oceans, our atmosphere, our drinking water and in our food - and will stay there for a long time affecting nature’s ecosystems and our lives.

By the middle of this century 9000 million human beings are expected to generate over 13000 tons of waste, that is about 20 percent more than that generated ten years ago. This increase in waste generation is most apparent in urban areas.  Today more than 50 per cent of the world’s population lives in cities and by 2050 this number is expected to rise to around 70 per cent.

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. 

Last May the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions took numerous decisions strengthening our conventions including landmark amendments to the conventions which are of great relevance to the work of your regional seas conventions and Action Plans.

With the adoption of the Plastic Wastes Amendment, Parties to the Basel Convention by consensus amended   the annexes to the Convention to clarify and strengthen entries for plastic wastes, bringing many types of plastics into the PIC procedure and therefore ensuring a more transparent, traceable, and enforceable set of measures concerning imports/exports of waste between countries.

At the same time a Plastic Waste Partnership has been established under the Basel Convention, providing a platform for exchanges and best practices, technical assistance and information-sharing, public awareness and more, to assist parties from all over the world implement the new measures for controlling plastic waste.

Considering the terms of reference for the Plastic Waste Partnership I take the opportunity to extend to you all an invitation to become a member of the Partnership.

Parties also adopted an improved version of the technical guidelines on the import/export on the e-waste and used equipment. Now Parties have more means to control import and export, with criteria and suggested documentation which should help prevent illegal movements of waste and of used equipment.

The Stockholm Convention listed 2 (out of 2) toxic chemicals: Dicofol (pesticide) and the industrial chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts and PFOA-related compounds. The latter comprises more than 4,000 chemicals with a wide a range of industrial applications ranging from non-stick cookware to firefighting foams. Listing means elimination, in the case of dicofol without exemptions, in the case of PFOA with country specific, time specific, use-specific exemptions. This brings the total number of POPs listed in the Convention to 30.

The Rotterdam Convention also listed two (out of 7) chemicals in its annex III, namely:

  • Phorate (a pesticide)
  • exabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) an industrial chemical.

This means they are now under the PIC procedure to share information between countries trading in hazardous chemicals. This brings the total of chemicals now listed under Annex III to 52.

Furthermore, the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention adopted a new Annex VII on Procedures and mechanisms on compliance.

These outcomes of our recent COPs demonstrate the commitment our parties have towards achieving a clean planet, healthy people”. We invite you to help us maintain the current momentum and thus I look forward to engaging further with you over the next three days.

One might think what relevance all those complicated chemicals and plastic waste have to do with the regional seas. Indeed, our regional seas do not exist without land, and without human activities on land. The plastic you observe today is only the tip of the iceberg – pollution runoff containing many of the chemicals listed under both the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions – are to be found all over the planet, it is therefore our joint responsibility to address it. Remember a clean land results in a clean ocean, and of course healthier coastal people, millions of which depend on the oceans for their livelihood.

I hope that we will be able to bring to you in our session on the third day the many interfaces and aspects where we can reinforce our cooperation. I stand ready to work with you all, and I thank Habib and Nancy who have been so kind to ensure our active engagement in your meeting.

With those few words, I am once again honoured to be part of the global regional seas meeting.

Thank you.