A process for continuing international efforts towards the sound management of chemicals beyond 2020 was agreed last week at the fourth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4). It includes:
- an independent evaluation of the UN-led voluntary chemicals management initiative, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (Saicm); and
- a schedule of meetings, to be agreed by March 2016, to prepare recommendations to be considered at the fifth ICCM in 2020.
Saicm stakeholders met in Geneva. They included representatives from:
- intergovernmental organisations;
- industry; and
- public interest groups.
They agreed that the recommendations should support the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This was adopted, with 17 sustainable development goals, the week before in New York (CW 1 October 2015).
Between now and 2020 – the deadline by which Saicm hopes to achieve global sound chemicals management – its activities will be prioritised according to an overall orientation and guidance document also endorsed by ICCM4.
As well as encouraging stakeholders to achieve “concrete risk reduction objectives”, it calls on members of the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) and the UN Environment Management Group to recommit to Saicm by July 2016.
Calls for financing and a progress report for the period 2014-2016 are also included in the document. Funding is a particular concern for Saicm (CW 1 October 2015)
ICCM4 also adopted environmentally persistent pharmaceutical products as a new "emerging policy issue". The IOMC will develop a work plan, including information generation and sharing, to fill identified knowledge gaps (GBB June 2015).
Health Care Without Harm Europe executive director Anja Leetz said: “The global community recognising pharmaceutical pollution in the environment as an emerging policy issue in the Saicm process is a good first step on a long road to protecting human health and the environment. Now concrete actions need to be taken to reduce pharmaceutical pollution during production, use and disposal."
The summit agreed various measures related to the existing Saicm emerging policy issues:
- the UN Environment Programme (Unep) and World Health Organization (WHO) should generate and disseminate information on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as part of its work plan. Developing countries have called for lists of known EDCs to be compiled (CW 30 September) – an idea opposed by the chemical and pesticide industries (CW 30 September 2015);
- all Saicm stakeholders should implement a chemicals in products programme proposal (CW 24 August 2015);
- governments should consider regulation to phase out the use of lead in paint;
- the UN Industrial Development Organization should work with others to develop a work plan for hazardous substances used in electrical and electronics products, and original equipment manufacturers should implement various measures including take-back programmes, industrial hygiene and environmental monitoring programmes, and safer and more sustainable chemistry in manufacturing; and
- information on the sound management of nanomaterials needs to be exchanged.
The conference agreed to a proposal from the Food and Agriculture Organization, Unep and the WHO to address highly hazardous pesticides as an issue of concern.
At the close of the conference several delegates noted their satisfaction with the outcomes of the meeting. Bjorn Hansen, head of chemicals at the European Commission's environment directorate said: “ICCM4 is a crucial milestone in pushing towards the 2020 goal. The EU and its member states consider the endorsement of the overall orientation and guidance document will help all stakeholders.” The strong links between the recently-adopted sustainable development goals and chemicals and wastes, he added, “clearly demonstrates that our work is crucial”.
And the representative from Nigeria called on stakeholders to “turn the resolutions into actions”.
NGO the International POPs Environmental Network (Ipen) said ICCM4 participants had shown they had the political will to "pick up the pace" towards 2020 and beyond. A key outcome, it added, was the decision on highly hazardous pesticides: "It is the first time these substances will be tackled in a comprehensive way in a UN agreement." However, the group said that increased and sustainable funding is needed.