Convened from 25 to 29 September 2023 in Bonn, the fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5), organised by UNEP, formally adopted a new global framework for the sound management of chemicals and waste, the “Global Framework on Chemicals – For a planet free of harm from chemicals and waste.” Throughout the Conference, a unique but intense international negotiation process took place where delegates from States, intergovernmental organisations, industry, NGOs, indigenous people, youth, and academia equally joined forces to reach a positive outcome. Indeed, until the very last minute of the negotiations, the draft’s provisions on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, technology transfer “on mutually agreed terms,” and the polluter pays principle remained bracketed demonstrating the intricate function of international environmental negotiations.
Based on five strategic objectives with 28 associated targets, the newly adopted instrument creates a comprehensive roadmap for States and stakeholders aiming to collectively address the lifecycle of chemicals in both products and wastes. In essence, the Global Framework on Chemicals together with its three annexes and 12 accompanying resolutions call for the prevention of the illegal trade of chemicals and wastes, the implementation of national legal frameworks to adverse relevant effects on human well-being and the ecosystem, and the phasing out of highly hazardous pesticides in the agricultural sector by 2035. Moreover, the Framework calls for the elimination of the most harmful chemicals while transitioning to safe and more sustainable alternatives, responsible management, and expanded access to information concerning chemicals and their risks. Among other things, the new instrument paves the way for strengthening capacity building in the developing South, as well as establishing connections to the interlinked climate change and biodiversity regimes.
In addition, the Conference adopted the Bonn Declaration which is a high-level political declaration in an effort to give political impetus to the Framework. Both the Framework and the Bonn Declaration were developed in complex consultations over months and finally reached consensus in the early hours of 30 September. As adopted, ministers, heads of delegations and stakeholder leaders, including CEOs, declared inter alia that:
- pollution from chemicals contributing to millions of deaths, illnesses, and disabilities each year,
- the sound management of chemicals and waste is essential for achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,
- the sound management of chemicals and waste will contribute significantly to the achievement of the climate objectives of the Paris Agreement and the goals and targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework,
- will prevent exposure to harmful chemicals, phase out the most harmful ones, and enhance the safe management of such chemicals,
- will actively promote research and innovation for the development of safe and sustainable chemicals including solutions drawn from indigenous people,
- commit to efficient management of chemicals and waste through accountability, transparency, access to information and justice, as well as to multi-sector and multi-stakeholder collaboration,
- commit to engage in the efforts to establish a science-policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution, as well as to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment,
- pledge to strengthen long-term financing from all sources to ensure no one is left behind,
Crucially, a decision was made to unlock financing through the establishment of the Global Framework on Chemicals Fund. Administered by UNEP, the Fund will include a mix of diverse sources from States, industry, NGOs, and foundations reassuring financial viability in the context of the transition to sustainability in chemicals and waste management. In order to accelerate the activation of the Fund, Steffi Lemke, German Environment Minister, announced, on behalf of her government, the allocation of €20 million to the Fund. From now on, stakeholders have a concrete tool with which they can raise concerns about unsound chemical management at the UN General Assembly and other multilateral fora, as Ms. Lemke remarked.
The decision to unlock funding through the creation of the Global Fund for the Chemicals Framework was crucial. Managed by UNEP, the Fund will include a mix of different sources from states, industry, NGOs and foundations, ensuring financial sustainability in the context of the transition to sustainable chemicals and waste management. In order to accelerate the activation of the Fund, Steffi Lemke, Germany’s Environment Minister, announced on behalf of her government the allocation of €20 million to the Fund. From now on, stakeholders have a concrete tool with which they can raise their concerns about the mismanagement of chemicals at the UN General Assembly and other multilateral fora, Lemke noted.
The adoption of the Global Framework on Chemicals marks an indispensable development in the collective battle against the triple planetary crisis. In effect, pollution and waste receive the same institutional recognition as climate change and biodiversity loss, which already have an established agenda. Most importantly, the new Framework provides humanity with a vision of a planet free from the harms of chemicals and waste, where sustainable chemistry will serve the long-term health and well-being of current and future generations in the long-term. “Everyone on this planet should be able to live and work without fear of falling sick or dying from chemical exposure. Nature, free from pollution, should be able to thrive and support humanity for millennia to come,” stated UNEP’s chief, Ms. Andersen, reflecting on the Framework’s adoption.
Sources: UΝ, UNEP, ILO, IISD, Center for International Environmental Law
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About the author
MEPIELAN Centre is an international research, training and educational centre established by Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos at the Panteion University of Athens in 2008.
Before its establishment as a University Centre, MEPIELAN operated as a successful international research, training and informational programme (2002-2007) under the scientific direction of Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos and the aegis of the Panteion University of Athens, supported by the Mediterranean Action Plan/UNEP and the Greek Ministry of the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works.
MEPIELAN Centre is an accredited UNEP/MAP PARTNER (since 2013), a Member of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) (since 2016), and a Member of the Steering Committee of the MCSD (since 2019).
On 22 May 2022, MEPIELAN Centre proceeded to the development of MEPIELAN as a Non- Profit Civil Organization (INGO) for the more effective and efficient advancement of its Goals and Missions and furtherance of its activities. MEPIELAN Centre as a Non- Profit Civil Organization (INGO) is registered in Greek Law (Hellenic Business Registry, Reg. No. 16477300100) in accordance with Laws 4072/2012 & 4919/2022 as applicable