Bonn Declaration for global sustainable management of chemicals and waste sends strong political signal
Meeting in Bonn under German presidency, representatives of governments from around the world, civil society, intergovernmental organisations, industry and UN bodies have adopted a new Global Framework on Chemicals. Another strong political message is sent by the Bonn Declaration. The international community and other stakeholders commit to ensuring safer chemicals management worldwide, phasing out the most hazardous chemicals where possible, and enhancing safe management of such chemicals that cannot yet be substituted.
Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke stated: “After eight years of intensive work, together we have successfully set a course towards a planet free of harm from chemicals and waste. That spells good news for the protection of humans and the environment, and for circular economy. We have reached agreement on progressive targets and effective steps for the safe management of chemicals globally. Chemicals production is increasing dramatically worldwide. It is therefore high time we curb global pollution. According to a study by the World Bank, in 2019 alone 5.5 million people died prematurely from lead poisoning. The pollution crisis affects all aspects of our lives. That makes it all the more significant that this agreement gives us the basis to create the necessary frameworks, incentive systems and administrative capacities everywhere. Now we must take effective measures to implement the adopted targets throughout the world.”
The decisions of the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management send the vital message that we are committed to combating the pollution of our planet. These decisions will help achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Their aim is to ensure effective protection of human health and the environment worldwide. Governments, industry and civil society have acknowledged their common responsibility to reduce the adverse effects from the use of chemicals across the entire life cycle, and create the framework needed to establish the foundations for chemicals management worldwide.
The Global Framework applies to all chemicals and their products from cradle to grave, i.e. from manufacture and use to the end-of-life stage. One of the goals is to lay key foundations in around 100 countries which do not yet have sufficient experience in managing highly dangerous chemicals. Since 2002, for example, the Globally Harmonized System on the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) has informed workers and consumers of the risks, for instance through easily indentifiable hazard pictograms. There are still around 100 countries where this system has not been implemented. Specific projects will provide support in the introduction of the GHS.
The Global Framework on Chemicals envisages a new fund to support such projects. Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke announced that Germany would contribute 20 million euros so that the new fund can begin its work as soon as possible. The industry also announced contributions to this new fund.
The Bonn Declaration, adopted in the ICCM5 High-level Segment by ministers, CEOs and heads of international organisations, stressed that chemicals management needs to be integrated into other policy areas (e.g. occupational health, agriculture, health) in order to implement the new framework. Numerous leaders from international organisations participated in the High-level Segment and pledged to implement the decisions taken at ICCM5.
The transition to circular economies will be actively promoted and supported. This includes developing safe chemical and non-chemical alternatives and substitutes which protect health and the environment and lead to reduced waste, recycling free from harmful chemicals, and efficient resource utilisation. This will give the industry incentive to innovate and seek safer, more sustainable alternatives in the development, manufacture and use of chemicals.
Combating the pollution of the planet is also important for economic reasons. The lack of chemicals management could cost as much as 10 percent of global GDP (United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, Global Chemicals Outlook II, 2019).
The adoption of the Global Framework acknowledges the pollution crisis as the third planetary crisis alongside climate change and biodiversity loss. These three crises are closely intertwined. The conference stressed the need to exploit synergies between climate action, biodiversity action and resource conservation more effectively. For instance, the safe management of chemicals and waste makes a vital contribution to achieving the climate targets of the Paris Agreement and the goals of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
The international community agreed on a global target for chemicals as early as 2002: By 2020, chemicals should be produced and used in ways that minimise significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health. To achieve this, a global policy instrument was established – the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The decision-making body of SAICM is the International Conference on Chemicals Management. SAICM was conceived for the period up to 2020, but was unable to accomplish its goal in that time. ICCM5 was originally scheduled for October 2020, but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) has now created a new Global Framework on Chemicals – For a planet free of harm from chemicals and waste.