The goal is to make a commitment to safe chemicals management in all countries and reduce the risks posed by chemicals
Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke opened ICCM5 today in Bonn. Numerous representatives of governments worldwide, NGOs, trade unions, industry, the scientific community and UN organisations are convening in Bonn from 25 to 29 September 2023 under German Presidency. Targets, measures and responsibilities will be agreed in order to make chemicals and their management safer globally and create incentives for modern, sustainable chemicals policy.
Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke commented: "I am delighted that Germany is hosting the International Conference on Chemicals Management in Bonn. In these geopolitically challenging times, it is important that the responsible actors in policymaking, civil society, industry and science join forces and seek solutions together. This sends a strong signal for the better protection of humans and the environment from the harmful effects of chemicals. It will also create incentives for intelligent and innovative alternatives and opportunities to open up new markets for the chemical industry. We need chemicals in almost all areas of our daily lives and in key areas, like medicine, they are vital. Nevertheless, some chemicals and their wastes are harmful to human health and the environment. Effective chemicals management is therefore necessary to ensure their sustainable use. The goal of the conference is a global commitment to the safe management of chemicals and against the pollution of our planet. We are facing a global challenge, which is why we need the right conditions, incentive systems and administrative capacities in all areas."
Chemicals are an essential part of our lives. Almost all products we use day to day, like cosmetics, textiles, electronic equipment, batteries or vehicles, contain chemicals. These are important contributions. But chemicals can also pose significant risks. They can be harmful to our health, for example in the workplace, but also for consumers if products are not designed to be sufficiently safe. Global chemicals management is therefore necessary to reduce the risk posed by chemicals and their wastes and to create innovative and intelligent alternatives.
The pollution crisis presents us with massive challenges alongside the climate and biodiversity crises. Chemicals and their wastes are the primary cause of this third planetary crisis. In addition, global chemical production and consequently environmental pollution and health risks are rapidly increasing. In 2019, the Global Chemicals Outlook found that production capacity for the global chemical industry alone doubled between 2000 and 2017 and will double again between 2017 and 2030. This means that global chemical production is expected to quadruple between 2000 and 2030. Each year, more than one billion people are exposed to hazardous substances, dusts, vapours and smoke in the workplace. Many of them suffer from chronic diseases or other impairments. According to estimates of the International Labour Organization (ILO), each year around one million people die prematurely as a result of contact with hazardous substances during work. This is most likely to happen where there is no effective chemicals management.
Chemicals management starts with the use of well-known materials and the development of new materials and continues throughout the entire life cycle right through to recycling and disposal. Safe management is necessary at all levels to protect humans and the environment. This is a major opportunity for the environment, humankind and industry.
What makes this conference unique is that it is not just governments sitting at the negotiating table. At ICCM5, government actors are working together as equal partners with representatives of industry and civil society from the fields of health, environmental protection, consumer protection, youth organisations and trade unions. These expertise and broad participation can help us find solutions that are supported and implemented across all sectors.
Back in 2002, the international community adopted a global chemicals target that by 2020, chemicals should be used and produced in a way that prevents significant adverse effects on human health and the environment. To achieve this target, a global policy instrument was established, namely the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The decision body of SAICM is the International Conference on Chemicals Management.
The conference is comparable to a Conference of the Parties. It is expected that the lengthy negotiation process on a new framework will be concluded at ICCM5 being held in Bonn from the 25 to 29 of September. Germany holds the Presidency of the conference. During the conference a new framework will be negotiated under UN rules similar to the UN climate change and biodiversity conferences. The decisions of ICCM5 are not binding under international law, rather they take effect in the form of global political commitment like with the UN decisions on the SDGs.
In addition to a framework on the concrete implementation of chemicals and waste management, the conference will see the adoption of a high‑level declaration by high‑ranking decision-makers and interested stakeholders in which governments, industry and civil society commit to their shared responsibility to reduce the negative impacts arising from the use of chemicals.