UN conference calls for global action to save people from toxic chemicals

Delegates agreed though that the key 2020 goal for sound chemical management could not be met by that year

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Tuesday 06 October 2015
Credit: Hey Paul, Flickr
Credit: Hey Paul, Flickr Credit: Hey Paul, Flickr

Delegates from across the globe, who participated in a week-long conference, agreed on a plan to prevent the deaths of more than a million people annually due to exposure to toxic chemicals.

The fourth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4) was organised at Geneva from September 28-October 2, 2015 by the United Nationas Environment Programme (UNEP).

The conference was the final decision-making meeting before the 2020 goal for sound management of chemical and waste expires. The 2020 goal was detailed out in the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM), the voluntary global agreement signed in March 2006. The goal says “that chemicals are to be used and produced in ways that minimise adverse effects on human health and the environment” and was to be met by the year 2020.

Richard Lesiyampe, president of ICCM4 said,"Projections show an increase in chemical production and use worldwide, with developing countries expected to produce and use by 2020 around 31 per cent and 33 per cent of global chemicals respectively".

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had projected that by the year 2020, nearly one third of the world's chemical production will take place in non-OECD countries and that global output will be 85 per cent higher than it was in 1995. The shift of chemical production to poor countries may increase related health and environmental risks.

Source: OECD Environmental Outlook for the Chemicals Industry

‘The 2020 goal cannot be met till 2020’

The delegates said that there were several reasons as to why the 2020 target would not be met by that year. One of the major reasons, they felt, was that while the world and especially the developing nations were keen to plan and act for sustainable management of hazardous chemicals, unsustainable and unpredictable financing was a challenge.

“The plan of action cannot be implemented by 2020 because the project is severely underfunded. The chemicals management programme only has $27 million available instead of the $100 million needed for implementation. Increased financial resources and a sense of urgency are needed if we are going to make progress—curb cancer and other diseases linked to unsound chemical management practices,” said Olga Speranskaya, co-chair of International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN).

‘Integration of sound management of chemicals into SDGs is welcome’

The participants welcomed the targets for managing chemicals and waste integrated into several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reached a common consensus on the role of SAICM in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and implementation of the SDGs. They said that SAICM was multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder and was therefore well-structured to address management of chemicals as per the targets set in the SDGs.


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