Opening of the Second virtual Berlin Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability "Just Transition Towards a Pollution-free Planet"

Bundesministerin Steffi Lemke
Opening speech by Steffi Lemke, Federal Minister for the Environment and Consumer Protection, at the Second Virtual Berlin Forum for Chemicals and Sustainability on September 4 and 5, 2023.

– Check against delivery –

Ladies and gentlemen,

welcome to the Second Berlin Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability. We are hosting this forum in the run-up to the Fifth Session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management which will be held under the German Presidency in Bonn from the 25th to the 29th of September. At ICCM5, we aim to adopt a new framework instrument for safer global chemicals and waste management.

In Bonn, we will conclude a negotiation process that began at ICCM4 in 2015. This process was the international community’s response to the growing global pollution crisis – caused in part by inadequate management of chemicals and waste. As early as 2001, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, pollution from chemicals and waste was identified as a global problem. As a result, a target was set to use chemicals and waste in ways that minimise their adverse effects on human health and the environment by the year 2020.

Already at the time, it was clear that the target was very ambitious. And that all sectors and stakeholders must share in the responsibility for this undertaking. This is because the pollution crisis affects all economic sectors and all areas of our lives. To reach the chemicals target, a multi-stakeholder process called the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) was initiated and the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) formed as its decision-making body. At the International Conference on Chemicals Management, governments, intergovernmental organisations, the private sector and civil society come together at the negotiating table on equal footing. This kind of cooperation is unique at a global level.

The chemicals target set for 2020 was not reached. It is also part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and essential for achieving many other SDGs including good health, decent work or clean water. Without sound chemicals management, it will be impossible to uphold the guiding principle of the 2030 Agenda of leave no one behind. Chemical pollution costs millions of lives every year. All over the world, workers are exposed to harmful chemicals, often without adequate protective equipment. Human-made chemicals accumulate in the environment, air, water and soil, even in the most remote regions of our planet. They negatively affect the resources we need to live on this planet. Chemical pollution in the environment has been on the rise since 2001. Now more than ever, the clock is ticking. Which is why it is so important to create the conditions for functioning global chemicals and waste management. It is our responsibility to fight the pollution crisis. This is the right mindset for us to kick-off ICCM5 and achieve outcomes that bring visible improvements.

It is extremely important to us under Germany’s ICCM5 Presidency to strengthen cooperation among all stakeholders under SAICM. The Berlin Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability aims to provide a platform for broad dialogue on global chemicals and waste management, giving different perspectives a chance to be heard.

Over the next two days, we would like to learn more with you about how insufficient chemical and waste management impacts our lives. We will look at three key areas: food security, human health and the environment and labour and occupational health. We have invited experts to present a wide range of viewpoints on each issue. In another session, we will explore how innovative measures from the scientific community, policymakers, civil society and industry can contribute to the safe management of chemicals and waste in our society – with a focus on protecting and supporting the people hardest hit by the pollution crisis.

With all the challenges ahead, we should not forget that many solutions and ideas already exist. We need to remind ourselves of these solutions and ideas, link them and develop them in tandem.

I am pleased that we have been able to attract a wide range of participants. Many are familiar with the SAICM process and will enhance our discussions with their valuable expertise. But we also have guests who are less familiar with SAICM and ICCM5. We are particularly looking forward to hearing your insights and new ideas and suggestions for action.

The preparations for the negotiations at ICCM5 are in high gear. I hope that we can pave the way for a successful chemicals conference with the diverse programme of the Berlin Forum. Let’s send the message that we are ready to work together across sectors and stakeholders to combat the pollution crisis.

Many thanks to Rolph Payet and Minu Hemmati, who will moderate the Forum and guide us through the following two days. Ladies and gentlemen, honoured guests, I hope you gain inspiring insights and new knowledge and engage in motivating discussions.

04.09.2023 | Speech Chemical Safety

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