Report of main proceedings for 21 February 2013
27th Session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC27/GMEF)
The COW met throughout the day and into the night to continue its consideration and adoption of draft decisions. The working group on institutional arrangements and rules of procedure met throughout the day. The working groups on budget and on chemicals management also convened in the morning, afternoon and into the night.
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
On Thursday morning, delegates heard reports from the working groups. Konrad Paulsen (Chile) noted that the budget working group had made substantial progress and that a Friends of the Chair Group was meeting to agree on outstanding text.Alf Wills (South Africa) reported that the chemicals management working group had met until 4:00am on Thursday morning to address the draft decision on chemicals and wastes, and that the discussion had centered on lead and cadmium. He also noted the group’s progress on the draft decision on mercury, and said the group would consider the draft decision on the consultative process for financing chemicals and wastes.
Oceans: The Secretariat introduced the revised draft decision on Oceans submitted by Colombia (UNEP/GC.27/CRP.3). NGOs called on delegates to include preambular text emphasizing the need to improve implementation, compliance and enforcement.
The US said the GC should be requested to “support” rather than “revitalize” the implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) at the regional level. The US also proposed, and delegates agreed, not to include details of specific support required. SOUTH AFRICA called for text on providing and developing necessary capacity on implementation of Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, which the COW agreed to. The draft decision was eventually approved during the evening COW session.
Sustainable consumption and production: Delegates agreed to delete “global” in relation to changing patterns of consumption and production. The EU and CROATIA, with SWITZERLAND, supported a US proposal to reflect the “initial” and “non-exhaustive” nature of the list of possible areas of the 10YFP. This was opposed by SOUTH AFRICA. ARMENIA, opposed by the EU and CROATIA and the US, asked to add “environmental mentality” to this indicative list. The US agreed to text on mobilizing voluntary contributions from multiple sources, in relation to the Trust Fund. The draft decision was eventually approved during the evening COW session.
Justice, governance and law for environmental sustainability: COW Chair Eidheim reported outstanding issues on public participation. The US introduced revised text that was supported by NORWAY, the EU, CHILE and ARGENTINA. CUBA indicated its reservation on including language on stakeholder participation, stressing that the issue was being discussed in other groups. On the draft decision to mandate the Executive Director to improve coherence and coordination, particularly through the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, BAHRAIN opposed reference to national courts.
The EU, opposed by CUBA and SOUTH AFRICA, proposed retaining a reference to strengthening capacity for combating environmental crimes. ARGENTINA objected to the term “environmental crimes,” saying the term “environmental protection” is more suitable. SOUTH AFRICA, KENYA and ANGOLA objected to text stating that environmental crimes are “facilitated” by weak governance structures, KENYA adding that factors beyond state jurisdiction, such as trade, are also responsible. The EU asserted that “weak governance structures” should be mentioned, and NORWAY proposed adding “inter alia” to that phrase. SOUTH AFRICA proposed an alternative paragraph, “recognizing that the violation of environmental laws has the potential to undermine sustainable development,” also proposing further actions such as information exchange and experience sharing to reinforce international cooperation. THE GAMBIA expressed support for the text, approving of the element of capacity building. The EU, supported by the US, welcomed the South African proposal, and suggested this be retained along with earlier text about the absence of law and increasing violations of environmental law. SOUTH AFRICA preferred to retain only the new paragraph.
ECUADOR sought to introduce recognition of “the rights of nature” in the context of promoting sustainable development. The Chair requested delegates to resolve the outstanding issues by the next morning.
International water quality guidelines for ecosystems: SWITZERLAND reported that a group of countries including the US, the EU and CROATIA and SWITZERLAND had met to resolve language in the preamble. She reported that the delegates had agreed to use language from paragraph 119 of the Rio+20 Outcome document, “ The Future we Want,” which recognizes that water is at the core of sustainable development. They also agreed on additional preambular text recognizing the need for international water quality guidelines which may be voluntarily used by governments to maintain and improve the status of ecosystems to sustain the services they provide as a possible basis for managing water pollution and water quality. The draft decision was approved as amended.
Coordination across the United Nations system, including the EMG: On the EMG, SWITZERLAND proposed discussing text on the UNEP Executive Director’s role in strengthening the EMG Secretariat and allocating resources, then providing the agreed text to the budget group. The US preferred that the discussion take place in the budget group. Chair Eidheim proposed that the discussion take place after the budget report is delivered. The EU and CROATIA, with the US, continued to discuss wording urging the EMG to give due consideration to and follow up on UN General Assembly resolution on the Quadriennial Comprehensive Policy Review (A/Res/67/226), including an integrated approach at the country level in line with “Delivering as One,” and, in the case of UNEP, to ensure effective and efficient mainstreaming of environmental issues at the country level. The EU and CROATIA requested that the decision be discussed after the working group on institutional arrangements had finished consideration of the issue.
Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication: In the afternoon, CHINA explained it had consulted with interested delegations, including the US and the EU on its draft decision. BOLIVIA said it was prepared to work with the Chinese proposal, and withdrew its draft decision on different approaches to achieve sustainable development. BRAZIL and others supported adding “in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication” after “green economy” throughout the draft decision. BRAZIL also proposed a new paragraph inviting countries to implement green economy policies. NORWAY proposed a new paragraph on the significant potential contribution of 10YFP to the concept of green economy. The US said it could not agree to continue reviewing the text, and requested the Chair to “cease and desist” from moving forward. CHINA, BOLIVIA and ARGENTINA said the draft decision had been submitted to the CPR prior to the current session, and urged consideration of the text. Discussions on this item will resume on Friday.
Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN): The US warned against selectively quoting past agreements, and delegates agreed to reference the Bali Strategic Plan for technology support and capacity, without mentioning specific paragraphs. BRAZIL proposed further consultations on several textual additions, including inviting the GEF to support the CTCN, and calling on governments and others to do so as well, on a voluntary basis.
IPBES: INDONESIA submitted text requesting the Executive Director to enter into collaborative partnership with UNESCO, FAO and UNDP in order to establish an institutional link with the IPBES platform and its Secretariat. The US said the text suggested that the collaboration would occur through UNEP, implying a hierarchy among organizations, and delegates agreed to consult further. The US presented a revised version with an additional paragraph that requests the Executive Director to submit input and suggestions to inform the work of the platform. The EU asked for time to conduct internal consultations on this issue.
Climate change: reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation: BOLIVIA presented a draft decision on this issue (UNEP/GC.27/CRP.5) noting it sought to change the designation of REDD+, which is not an official UN acronym. GUATEMALA, COLOMBIA, the EU, JAPAN, NEW ZEALAND, the US and others said they could not support the proposal, stressing that while the term REDD+ is not an official UN name, it is widely used in the UN system. Bolivia said it would not withdraw its proposal, and agreed to consult informally with interested delegations to revise and seek support for the draft decision.
Working group on institutional arrangements and rules of procedure: The working group on institutional arrangements convened throughout the day to discuss the draft decision prepared by the group’s co-chairs. Delegates welcomed the brevity of the draft decision, but proposed textual changes and additions to multiple sections of the document. Several delegates welcomed the reference to holding biennial meetings of the governing body, while leaving open the option of convening special ministerial sessions to address “important and pressing environmental challenges.” One delegate said the reference on special sessions could lead to annual meetings, and proposed deleting the text. Another urged the continuation of annual meetings to enable the governing body to continue to make decisions on an annual basis.
Some delegates expressed concern over a provision stipulating that an open-ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) will be the intersessional committee of the governing body, given that many countries are not represented in the CPR and may not be able to fully participate in its proceedings.
Several delegates called for a separate section on stakeholder participation at all UNEP proceedings, noting that the draft decision provided for such participation only in ministerial segments of meetings of UNEP’s governing body. A few called for a revised text indicating that stakeholder participation did not extend to decision making. Another said Major Groups fully supported the intergovernmental nature of UNEP, and were simply seeking to participate in the deliberations that could lead to decisions adopted by governments.
IN THE BREEZEWAYS
On Thursday morning, sleep-deprived but happy delegates continued their discussion in the chemicals management contact group, which had kept them in the UN Gigiri Complex until 4:00am. Commenting on the overnight discussions, one seasoned negotiator said he was satisfied with the compromise reached on the Swiss proposal to facilitate prompt integration of the new Minamata Convention on Mercury into the chemicals and wastes cluster. He said the agreed text informs the plenipotentiaries conference that the interim secretariat support for the Mercury Treaty could be provided by the Joint Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. He stressed that this means “other options exist” beyond requesting UNEP Chemicals to offer support. A few delegates emphasized that the decision on secretariat arrangements for the Mercury Treaty, including its future location, “should be left open,” and cautioned against pre-empting the outcome of the plenipotentiaries conference that will adopt the treaty. Others emphasized the importance of enabling plenipotentiaries to make an “informed decision” on interim arrangements, based on the consideration of all available options and the advantages that would result from making use of the synergies and efficiencies achieved in the chemicals-wastes cluster.
While the COW and various working groups negotiated late into the evening once more, some guests proved reluctant to leave the evening reception. As one straggler said, the event, hosted by the three governments associated with the successful conclusion of the Minamata Convention just weeks before, was as good a reason as any to celebrate the new UNEP.
ENB SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS: The Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary and analysis of the UNEP Governing Council/GMEF will be available on Monday, 25 February 2013 online at: http://enb.iisd.org/unepgc/27unepgc/