HEJSupport attended the on-line Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability that was initiated by the German Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze  and was held on July 7-8, 2021. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the need for an effective new chemicals and waste strategy for the post-2020 period. Several country interventions highlighted the importance of a global framework that would address the numerous problems associated with the production and use of chemicals and waste, their impact on human health and the environment, and exposure pathways.

Speakers emphasized, in particular, that addressing chemical and waste pollution is as important as combating the climate crisis and the loss of biodiversity. Therefore, there is a need for an international agreement on chemical and waste pollution, which should be at the same level as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

In addition, the need for a science-policy interface (SPI) on chemicals and waste was noted, similar to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to contribute to the development of regulations and decision making in accordance with a recognized scientific approach.

Furthermore, the importance of developing a circular economy was highlighted in many interventions. The Minister of Environment of Finland mentioned the need to pursue a safe circular economy, which should take into account the entire life cycle of chemicals, lead to the creation of safe materials and less pollution. To do this, an ambitious chemical strategy must be adopted and effectively implemented.

Unfortunately, some speakers pointed out that small, medium-sized, and artisanal enterprises, rather than large chemical plants, are the main cause of chemical and waste problems. However, they did not cite statistics related to toxic emissions and discharges from large chemical plants, violations of human rights to health and a healthy environment, or the numerous accidents that occur at such giant facilities.

Some developing countries, in particular the representative of the African Union, stressed the urgency for 1) providing institutional mechanisms 2) financial and technical assistance 3) working with governments and 4) monitoring and evaluation of chemicals and waste activities.

The Forum noted poverty and inequality between countries, and the fact that people living in poverty suffer more from exposure to toxic chemicals. The impact of chemical pollution on the most vulnerable groups, such as women and children, was also highlighted.

The importance of gender, the role of youth and the role of NGOs in pushing industry towards innovations were recognized.

To learn more about the discussion happened at the Berlin Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability, visit Berlin Forum | BMU

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Written by Olga Speranskaya