Experimenting with TripleCOPs: Productive innovation or counterproductive complexity?

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Abstract

The Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions are engaged in a path-breaking “synergies” initiative that coordinates and even integrates parts of their administration, operation, and implementation. This includes holding TripleCOPs during which their Conference of the Parties meet together in sequential and simultaneous sessions. This article provides a preliminary analysis of this unprecedented experimentation. We find several important positive and negative procedural, political, and policy consequences of the new format, including: countries with large delegations hold a variety of advantages; developing countries can potentially leverage negotiating strength in one convention to advance concerns in another; it is easier to address the environmentally sound management of chemicals and wastes holistically as well as specific technical issues that involve two or more of the treaties; and new opportunities exist for brinkmanship, obstruction, and cross-treaty negotiating that can make reaching agreement on some issues more difficult.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The authors thank the anonymous reviewers who offered helpful suggestions for improving this article. We also thank the many representatives of national delegations, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and industry associations that spoke with us during the last 18 years at the BRS negotiations; the individuals we interviewed, on and off the record, specifically for this article; and Columbia University, Fairfield University, London School of Economics, and University of British Columbia for their flexibility allowing us to attend the negotiations.

  2. 2.

    COPs are composed of all countries that have ratified or otherwise formally joined an MEA and are the ultimate decision-making authority.

  3. 3.

    A number of participants used the term “experiment” to describe the first meeting and the UN official responsible for organizing the meetings, Executive Secretary Jim Willis, called them “innovative and unique” (IISD 2013).

  4. 4.

    All information and conclusions in this article, including those that have specific references, are based on personal observations by the authors during the TripleCOPs and previous BRS COPs and related meetings and a large number of off the record conversations with participants.

  5. 5.

    Each COP had already been scheduled prior to and indepedently of the ExCOP and had to meet to conduct normal treaty business.

  6. 6.

    We use the terms developed and developing country as Parties use these terms during the BRS COPs.

  7. 7.

    Information on attendees gathered from meeting reports and official lists of participants available from the BRS Secretariat Web site.

  8. 8.

    Resolutions 1/5 and 2/7 respectfully. Available via the UNEA Web site: http://www.unep.org/environmentassembly/documents/official-documents/resolutions-and-documents-previous-assemblies.

  9. 9.

    Some national delegates and other participants agreed to discuss certain sensitive issues only if we provided no information regarding their identity or who they represented during the negotiations.

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Allan, J.I., Downie, D. & Templeton, J. Experimenting with TripleCOPs: Productive innovation or counterproductive complexity?. Int Environ Agreements 18, 557–572 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10784-018-9404-2

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Keywords

  • Conference of the parties
  • Stockholm Convention
  • Rotterdam Convention
  • Basel Convention
  • Synergies
  • POPs
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Hazardous waste
  • Environmental regimes
  • International environmental agreements