Working together for “a future detoxified”

“The pollution on this planet has never been worse. The impact on our people has never been more deadly. But the time to fix it has never been better.” – Mr Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director, UN Environment at the opening of the BRS-Triple COP on 24 April, 2017.

GENEVA, Switzerland – April 28: 4pm (Environment): Representatives from Tonga have joined counterparts from Cook Islands, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) at the joint Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions in Geneva.

Known as the BRS Triple-COPs, the two-week long meeting comprises the back-to-back running of the three Conventions which, together, provide international guidance on the sound management of chemicals and hazardous waste.

Representing Tonga at the Meeting are Ms Lupe Matoto (Director of Environment, MEIDECC) and Ms Mafile’o Masi (Chief Environmentalist, MEIDECC). They will be joined by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Environment, Hon. Siaosi ‘O. Sovaleni, and Mr. Paula Ma’u (CEO for MEIDECC), for the High Level Segment which commences on May 4, 2017.

Ms Matoto believes that Pacific island countries must take their representation at Multilateral Environment Agreements very seriously.

“Tonga is a Party to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. It’s very useful for us to be here and explore the synergies between the different Conventions and ensure that we are able to meet our obligations,” she said.

The theme of the joint BRS gathering, which runs from 24 April – 5 May, 2017, is “a future detoxified”. It is the largest BRS meeting to date, with more than 1,600 participants registered from 180 countries.

At the meeting, Pacific island representatives have the opportunity to make interventions on behalf of the region, thus helping to guide the sound management of toxic chemicals and waste.

Under the Rotterdam Convention, to which Cook Islands, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa and Tonga are parties, the meeting will consider the listing of eight substances to the Annex III ‘watchlist’, meaning that they cannot be imported without Prior Informed Consent. Of the eight substances being considered, two – paraquat and chrysotile asbestos – are of particular relevance to Tonga and the Pacific island region.

Other issues slated for discussion at the BRS Triple-COPs include the prevention and minimisation of the generation of waste under the Basel Convention, and the listing of chemicals for ‘elimination’ and ‘eventual elimination’ under the Stockholm Convention.

SPREP acts as the Pacific regional coordinating centre (PRC) for the Basel and Waigani Conventions and provides assistance and capacity development for the region in the areas of chemical management and toxic waste.

Dr Frank Griffin, SPREP’s Hazardous Waste Management Adviser, believes that the attendance of these meetings by the Pacific Island countries is very important.

“The BRS Triple COPs provide Pacific island representatives with the opportunity to see what other countries are doing, how they can learn from all these and improve their own operations at the national level.  The meetings and side events also provide an opportunity to participate and inform the rest of the world what they are doing at the national level,” Dr Griffin said.

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