In mid-February, government representatives from across the African continent will come together in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo to work towards a safe chemicals and waste future. Read on for more about the process and what it means.
What is the Bamako Convention?
The Bamako Convention on the Ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within Africa (Bamako Convention) is a treaty prohibiting the import into Africa of any hazardous—including radioactive—waste. The Convention was adopted under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity in 1991 and came into force in 1998.
What is the purpose of the Convention?
The Convention aims to protect human and environmental health by:
prohibiting the import of all hazardous and radioactive wastes into the African continent, no matter the reason
minimizing and controlling transboundary movements of hazardous wastes within the African continent
prohibiting all ocean and inland water dumping or incineration of hazardous wastes
ensuring that disposal of wastes is conducted in an environmentally sound manner
promoting cleaner production over the pursuit of a permissible emissions approach based on assimilative capacity assumptions
establishing the precautionary principle—a principle expressed in the Rio Declaration which stipulates that, where there are “threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”.
What does the Convention cover?
The Convention covers more wastes than those covered by the Basel Convention, as it not only includes radioactive wastes but also considers any waste with a listed hazardous characteristic or with a constituent listed as a hazardous waste. The Convention also covers national definitions of hazardous waste. Other products also covered under the Convention include those that have been severely restricted or prohibited.
Why does the Bamako Convention Conference matter?
The worldwide concern about the transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous wastes was heightened in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Expectedly, the major concern was the transboundary shipment of hazardous wastes from industrialized nations for cheap disposal in inadequately prepared sites in developing countries. This concern ignited a new urgency to develop and implement international controls, culminating in a landmark global convention under the United Nations to control the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal, commonly called the Basel Convention. The Bamako Convention is a solution and an African response to the perceived legal loopholes and weaknesses of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.
What outcomes are expected in 2020?
The Secretariat of the Bamako Convention and the Republic of Mali are expected to report to parties on the status of the roadmap for the transfer of the Secretariat to Mali.
The Secretariat will review and adopt a draft decision on the road map and scenarios, including for the personnel and transfer of the Secretariat to a new seat in Bamako, Mali.
The Conference of the Parties will review and adopt the new proposed list of substances which have been banned, cancelled or refused registration by government regulatory action, or voluntarily withdrawn from registration in the country of manufacture, for human health or environmental reason under paragraph 1(d) of Article 2 of the Bamako Convention.
A new scale of assessment reflecting balanced contributions among parties to the Convention will be considered.
The meeting is expected to contribute to ongoing dialogue on synergic and coherent implementation of the hazardous and chemicals-related conventions and frameworks in Africa.
The meeting is expected to garner the prior appropriate political momentum for the sound management of hazardous waste and chemicals, including plastic in Africa.
How is the Bamako Convention related to other conventions?
Although the Basel and Bamako conventions share similar historical background and goals, there are areas of divergence in their specific provisions. The scope of wastes covered by the Bamako Convention is wider than that of the Basel Convention. In terms of import of waste, the most significant difference between the Basel and Bamako conventions is the total ban imposed by the Bamako Convention upon all imports of hazardous and nuclear wastes into Africa. Other conventions include the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions which together with Basel cover key elements of cradle-to-grave management of hazardous chemicals, most comprehensively in the case of persistent organic pollutants, which are covered by all three treaties. The cradle-to-grave process touches on all the components of waste management including its generation and by-products, transportation, testing, treatment and disposal.
In February 2020, the Convention has 29 parties.
What is the structure of the Convention?
The Convention consists of the Member States—or the Conference of Parties —who, at the start of the first meeting of its ordinary session, elect a president, three vice-presidents and a rapporteur. These officers constitute the Bureau of the Conference.
What is the role of the Bureau?
The Bureau of the Bamako Convention is responsible for assisting the president in the general conduct of the business of the Conference. The members of the Bureau are elected by the Conference at every ordinary session.
Supporting Haiti’s COVID-19 response
Haiti is well acquainted with challenge. In any given year, a typical Haitian household will face multiple shocks—which may include hurricanes, floods, disease, death, unemployment or any combination thereof.
For Haitians, some might say that COVID-19 is only the latest thing. But it is a critical thing.
Of all the challenges Haitians face, health shocks take the greatest toll on household incomes. With limited access to insurance or credit, many families cope by borrowing money, selling assets, or take children out of school. The poor have even fewer options, and coping with the pandemic may have long-term negative impacts–decreasing their food supply, depleting their savings or alienating them from their social networks.
Above and beyond the UNEP mandate
Since 2017, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has worked in close partnership with Haiti’s national Directorate for Civil Protection, developing early-warning systems to reduce disaster risks–particularly in the country’s small but densely populated southern islands, exposed to storms with 300 kilometre per hour winds.
Strictly speaking, pandemic response is not part of UNEP’s mandate to support Haiti’s Ministry of Environment. But when COVID-19 hit, the Port Salut office knew it would have to extend beyond its usual reach.
UNEP Haiti Programme Officer, Jean-Max Milien says, “COVID-19 has pushed every limit. Our adaptability–the fact that we are ready and willing to do whatever is needed–is not just important to our work. It underpins the relationship we have with the people of Haiti.”
UNEP Haiti has been supporting national institutions on their response and protection plans, helping incorporate pandemic risks–especially with regard to sanitation. The organization is also working closely with local communities, supporting partners to raise awareness and put mitigation measures into place.
Haiti’s unique challenges
Strict limitations on movement and widespread adoption of sanitation measures–the go-to response in many other countries hit by COVID-19–are less straight-forward in Haiti.
With the majority of Haitians earning their livelihoods through informal work like fishing, direct services or street vending, a ban on such activities would not only be difficult to impose, it could also cripple household incomes. In fact, according to the World Bank, a 20 per cent reduction in household consumption could push another million people into poverty and 2.5 million into extreme poverty.
At the same time, access to water and sanitation is disparate, at best. Even in metropolitan Port-au-Prince, for example, only about 55 per cent of the population has access to the public water network. And while access to piped and other improved water sources is increasing for the rural top 20, it is decreasing for the rest of the rural population.
Simple interventions with big impact
UNEP Haiti and its partners, the Directorate of Civil Protection and Pêche Artisanale et Développement Intégré, started with the simple act of handwashing. And it wasn’t just the act that was simple.
Handwashing units were constructed from repurposed cooking oil buckets, fitted with taps and tubes. A local producer installed 1,200 handwashing points while training community members to build the same types of units in the Marine Protected Areas of Port-Salut, Saint-Jean-du-Sud and La Cahouane. Communities are now equipped to expand the initiative and refill the handwashing units with water and bleach when needed.
To encourage their use, handwashing points are located where communities gather most frequently: local associations, shops, restaurants, hotels and main roads, ensuring access even for the most isolated. The repurposed buckets are also branded with messages, encouraging people to wash their hands and reduce their risk of infection. In April, a sound-equipped truck issued the same messages as it moved throughout inland and coastline communities everyday
These simple interventions are not only effective and cost efficient, they also enforce UNEP’s duty of care–allowing space and not exposing any partner or person to unnecessary risk while establishing the campaign. Moreover, because of their small budget, additional funds remain and will allow UNEP to provide further support, in case the disease peaks.
Norilsk Nickel has a permafrost monitoring plan
Russian nickel and palladium producer will monitor the state of permafrost
Russia’s Norilsk Nickel, a major global nickel and palladium producer, has created an environmental task team, independent of the board of directors, to monitor progress in the Russian major’s environmental programmes, the company said.
A state of emergency was declared in Norilsk as a result of permafrost thawing. Several tons of diesel fuel leaked from the fuel tank at the TPP of Norilsk Energy Company No. 3 and leaked into the neighboring river on May 29.
Nornickel said it had appointed Andrey Bougrov, who has worked at the company since 2013, as its senior vice president for environmental protection.
The company plans to boost its cooperation with Russian and foreign researchers focused on Arctic ecology and permafrost zones to find solutions and improve industrial safety in the region, Bougrov said in the statement.
In addition, the post of deputy director for ecology will be introduced in the Polar division of Nornickel.
Commenting on his appointment, Bougrov said that Nornickel plans to step up its cooperation with Russian and foreign researchers, and specialist organisations focused on Arctic ecology and permafrost zones, to jointly study permafrost environments and find solutions to improve industrial safety in the Arctic region.
“Our joint efforts based on transparency will provide us with the most advanced solutions, while also contributing to the protection of the Arctic nature,” said Bougrov.
The company and emergency specialists are collecting contaminated soil and fuel from local rivers, and President Vladimir Putin has said the scale of the clear-up operation is unprecedented for Russia.
According to Nornickel’s estimate, over 90% of spilt fuel has been collected and removed so far. It said previously the accident was caused by thawing in the permafrost weakening the foundations of a storage tank.
Electric mobility could boost green jobs as part of the COVID-19 recovery in Latin America
The transition to electric mobility could help Latin America and Caribbean countries to reduce emissions and fulfill their commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change, while generating green jobs as part of their recovery plans from the COVID-19 crisis, according to a new study.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, “Electric Mobility 2019: Status and Opportunities for Regional Collaboration in Latin America and the Caribbean,” analyzes the latest developments in 20 countries in the region and highlights the growing leadership of cities, companies, and civil associations in promoting new e-mobility technologies.
Though still a recent development, electrification of the public transport sector is happening at high speed in several countries in the region, says the study financed by the European Commission through the EUROCLIMA + Programme and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and renewable energy company Acciona.
Chile stands outs with the largest fleet of electric buses in the region, with more than 400 units, while Colombia is expected to incorporate almost 500 electric buses in Bogotá, its capital. Other Colombian cities, like Cali and Medellín, have join Ecuador’s Guayaquil and Brazil’s Sao Paulo in introducing electric buses.
Increased efficiency, lower operation and maintenance costs of electric buses, as well as growing public concern around the impacts of road transport-related emissions on human health and the environment are the main drivers behind this transition in public transport, according to the study.
The transport sector is responsible for 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean and is one of the main drivers of poor air quality in cities, which causes more than 300,000 premature deaths a year in the Americas, according to the World Health Organization.
“In recent months we have seen a reduction of air pollution in cities in the region due to lockdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But these improvements are only temporary. We must undertake a structural change so that our transportation systems contribute to the sustainability of our cities,” says Leo Heileman, UNEP Regional Director in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The report calls on decision-makers to prioritize the electrification of public transport, especially when updating the old bus fleets that run through the large cities in the region. There is fear of a “technology lock-in” over the next 7 to 15 years if authorities choose to renew old fleets with new internal combustion vehicles that will continue to pollute the air and cause severe health damages.
Some countries are already paving the way to ensure a transition to sustainable transport. Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panamá have designed national strategies on electric mobility, while Argentina, Dominican Republic, México, Paraguay are finalizing their own plans, according to the report.
More than 6,000 new light-duty electric vehicles (EVs) were registered in Latin America and the Caribbean, between January 2016 and September 2019, according to the report. The need for charging infrastructure has boosted new ventures and services. For example, e-corridors, already running in Brazil, Chile, México, and Uruguay, allow users to extend the autonomy of their EVs by making use of public fast charging point networks.
Shared mobility businesses focusing on electric bicycles and skateboards are also being developed in at least nine countries in the region.
The development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure has the potential to foster new investments and jobs, which are key to COVID-19 recovery efforts in the region.
The report calls on governments to develop a clear medium- and long-term roadmap that provides legal certainty for private investment and highlights the role of sustainable mobility in power grid expansion plans, in line with climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.
The 2015 Agreement, signed to date by nearly 200 countries, aims to keep the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The report was produced with inputs from the Latin American Association for Sustainable Mobility (ALAMOS) and contributions from the Center for Urban Sustainability in Costa Rica.
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