Nordic workshop prepares global goals for enhancing chemicals safety worldwide
By Niko Urho (Senior Fellow at the Center for Governance and Sustainability)
An informal Nordic workshop was held in January 19, 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden bringing together 55 experts from all over the world to brainstorm on the possible content of measurable objectives and milestones for sound management of chemicals and wastes worldwide. The workshop was organized to support the formulation of a new global framework (“Beyond 2020-framework”) for sound management of chemicals and wastes after year 2020. Per Ängquist, Secretary of State of the Swedish Ministry of the Environment and Energy, opened the workshop. Niko Urho, Senior Fellow at the Center for Governance and Sustainability, gave a keynote presentation about the governance options for the new framework focusing on measurable objectives and milestones, national action plans, reporting, review and scientific support.
Niko Urho gave concrete examples for designing the governance of the new framework looking into lessons learned from other international regimes, including the Paris Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the High-level Political Forum. He stressed that global objectives and milestones need to be supported by at least two important governance features to give them real effect. First, the introduction of a national action plan mechanism is needed to generate prospective policy planning at the national level aiming to institutionalize the objective and milestones across government sectors. Second, national reporting is needed for retrospective self-evaluation of progress helping to determine if governments are on track to meet the objectives and milestones. Lastly, Niko Urho presented a “Cooperative Framework for Sound Management of Chemicals and Wastes” as a way forward to coherently address existing gaps of SAICM (Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management) in designing of the new framework.
Other presentations included those by Achim Halpaap, UN Environment and Jorge Ocana, UNITAR who jointly informed about the results from a previous workshop held in Berlin, January 15-16, 2018 focusing on lessons learned from the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that have been fundamental for providing aspiration and increased commitment for the biodiversity cluster since their adoption in 2010. Furthermore, Nina Cromnier, Swedish Chemicals Agency gave a presentation on the trends and challenges in the global management of chemicals that includes expected rapid growth of the production of chemicals and its shift to developing countries, where safety standards are weak. Thereafter, participants divided in five small groups to first identify root causes for prevailing poor chemicals and wastes management practices and then to think about solutions needed to overcome these challenges. The exercises created important elements for possible measurable goals and targets, including mandatory toxicity and safety testing for chemicals on the market and access to hazard and risk information.
Global chemicals and waste governance is under reform in the context of the United Nations with the view for its reconceptualization in the post-2020 era. Since 2006, UNEP has hosted the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a small programme with a large mandate to achieve sound management of chemicals throughout their life-cycle by 2020. SAICM complements legally binding conventions by addressing issues that fall beyond their scope. In 2015, governments and other stakeholders decided that SAICM should be renewed to respond to repeated calls for enhancing sound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes as reflected in the outcome document The Future We Want of the Rio+20 Conference and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
The preparation of the “Beyond-2020 framework for sound management of chemicals wastes” includes three intersessional meetings that are expected to culminate in the adoption of the new framework in the 5th meeting of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) to be organized in 2020. The first intersessional meeting was held in February 2017, in Brasilia, Brazil and resulted in a Co-Chairsʾ summary. A key element of the discussions includes the development of measurable global objectives and milestones for sound chemicals and waste management, following the example the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The Co-Chairsʾ summary has been, subsequently, developed into the ‘Co-Chairsʾ Overview Paper’ that forms the basis for future negotiations.
The way forward
The informal Nordic workshop is expected to inform the second intersessional meeting to be held in Stockholm, Sweden on March 13-15, 2018 that will bring together hundreds of participants from governments, NGOs, the private sector and academia. Pollution is now high on the global agenda due to extensive media coverage that provides momentum to address chemicals pollution, which has so far been neglected in many parts of the world. To this end, the second intersessional meeting should at minimum bring progress in determining ambitious global objectives and milestones, but should also achieve progress in other important areas needed for effective governance. See the website of the SAICM Secretariat for more information on the Beyond-2020 process.