For more information about CIEL's Human Rights & Environment Program, contact Marcos Orellana.

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Basel Convention COP10 makes great progress on regulation of global hazardous waste trade

Basel COP10
Photo courtesy of IISD/Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

The Tenth Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention on the theme of "Prevention, minimization and recovery of wastes” concluded on Oct. 21, 2011, following the adoption of several momentous decisions.

First, COP 10 made a historical breakthrough with respect to entry into force of the Ban Amendment.  The Ban Amendment was adopted by the COP in October 1995 (Decision III/1).  The Amendment bans the export of hazardous wastes for final disposal and recycling from Basel Convention Annex VII countries (EU, OECD and Liechtenstein) to non-Annex VII countries. 71 Parties have so far ratified the Amendment, but it has not yet entered into force owing to disagreement over the interpretation of Article 17(5) regarding amendments to the Convention.  Dr. Marcos Orellana of CIEL noted in the plenary that the "fixed-time" approach proposed by Indonesia and Switzerland in their Country-Led Initiative (CLI) better comports to the customary rules of treaty interpretation.

COP10 agreed on a solution to this impasse.  The COP adopted the CLI, which calculates the number of necessary ratifications on the basis of the "fixed-time" approach, i.e., 3/4 of the Parties of the Basel Convention at the time COP3 adopted the Ban Amendment.  Accordingly, the Amendment will go into force when 68 countries of the 90 countries that were Parties to the Convention in 1995 ratify the Amendment.  This approach was preferred over the “current time approach,” whereby three-fourths of the current 178 Parties would be needed to bring the Amendment into force. Already 51 of the required 68 ratifications have been submitted, and thus only 17 more ratifications are required. Once in effect, the Amendment will only apply to those Parties that have ratified it.

Secondly, COP10 addressed the issue of shipbreaking and whether the recently adopted Hong Kong International Convention on the Environmentally Sound Dismantling of Ships provides an equivalent level of control and enforcement as the Basel Convention.  COP10 recognized a divergence of views on equivalence, particularly between the developed states and China, which found equivalence, and developing countries in Africa and Latin America, which argued that the Hong Kong Convention does not provide an equivalent level of control.  COP10 also acknowledged continuation of Basel’s competence over shipbreaking and agreed that Basel should continue to assist countries to apply the Basel Convention as it relates to ships. Finally, the COP decision endorsed the early ratification and coming into force of the Hong Kong Convention.

Dr. Orellana made a statement to the plenary noting that the Hong Kong Convention does not establish a level of protection equivalent to that established by the Basel Convention.  CIEL also hosted a side-event on shipbreaking analyzing the question of equivalence in greater depth.  CIEL’s submission to the Secretariat regarding the question of equivalency can be found here.

The final intervention made by the Basel Action Network on behalf of CIEL, Greenpeace, NGO Platform on Shipbreaking, and International POPS Elimination Network can be read here.

Update: EU Commission's proposed regulation on ship recycling is illegal under international and EU law

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