The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) has agreed to provide its first significant funding to the secretariat of the UN’s Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (Saicm).
The move has been welcomed by several Saicm stakeholders, but some NGOs are concerned about how the money will be spent.
Discussions on how industry could support the under-resourced Saicm secretariat began between ICCA and the UN Environment Programme (Unep) under a memorandum of understanding that was signed in 2010, but which has subsequently expired.
As such, a commitment by ICCA to provide $150,000/year for two years will now be part of a new partnership agreement the two groups are negotiating. A letter of intent for the agreement was signed at the recent International Conference on International Chemicals Management (ICCM4).
Greg Skelton, senior director of regulatory and technical affairs at the American Chemistry Council, said the ICCA funding is not tied to any required use or outcomes. “The [Saicm] secretariat has chosen to use the ICCA commitment to strengthen its broader outreach to industry, in particular downstream industry.”
The ICCA also helped the secretariat find a consultant – former Cefic head of international chemicals management Lena Perenius - “who could support them with that,” said Mr Skelton.
But NGOs such as the International POPs Elimination Network (Ipen) and the Centre of International Environmental Law say Unep’s choice of a chemical industry representative poses a potential conflict of interest. One NGO participant in the ICCM4 budget discussions questioned why Saicm was engaging only an industry stakeholder, as opposed to other stakeholders and sectors.
Jacob Duer, Saicm secretariat principal co-ordinator, said any accusation regarding a conflict of interest was "an allegation against the integrity of the UN", and that contrary to what some NGOs may have believed, the consultant’s role will not include Saicm financing mechanisms. Full details of the consultants role will, he added, be published shortly,
Ms Perenius’ successor at Cefic, Veronique Garny, said the consultant's objectives “are set by the Saicm secretariat".
At ICCM4, NGOs sought to get wording on the internalisation of costs of sound chemicals management into the Saicm budget – to ensure the chemical industry, as Ipen says “would pay the true costs for managing their products, instead of externalising their toxic liabilities”.
But this was strongly resisted by the industry, say the NGOs, and instead the conference agreed to call for enhanced industry involvement and “integrated financing” – which includes cost recovery methods, taxes, technology transfer and voluntary programmes.
Responding to comments by European Commission delegate Jill Hanna that industry should bear the costs of chemicals management (1 October 2015), Mr Skelton said private sector financial flows from developed to developing countries “dwarf” those of official development assistance. “While mainstreaming of chemicals management in national development plans is important, it is obvious that aid is not the total answer.”
The most significant impacts in chemicals management will be made at national level through the establishment of basic capacity to manage chemicals safely, he added. “But there is no one-size-fits-all for this approach – it depends on a country's particular needs. Some… impose fees on industry for registering chemicals. Others fund activities out of general taxation, which industry is a significant contributor to.”