Speech by Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke On the occasion of the Opening of the High-Level Segment of the Fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5)

Bundesministerin Steffi Lemke
Steffi Lemke gave a speech on chemical safety and international policy at the 5th ICCM.

– Check against delivery –

Directors, Board Members,
Stakeholder Representatives,
Inger Andersen,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the High-level Segment of the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management.

Inger Andersen and I are jointly hosting this High-level Segment. We want to discuss with you how we can step up the political pressure in future in the fight against the pollution crisis. The pollution crisis affects all aspects of our lives. We cannot implement the goals of the 2030 Agenda or keep our promise to leave no one behind without sustainable chemicals and waste management.

Our goal for ICCM5 is to adopt ambitious targets and effective measures for sound chemicals management. In Rio back in 1992, the international community essentially already agreed to significantly reduce pressures on humans and the environment caused by chemicals. To this day, we have not come close enough to achieving this goal. I believe this is partly due to a lack of knowledge of this issue and its links to other areas. In future we will have to intensify our efforts yet again to raise public awareness of chemicals pollution.

We made progress on this at the second Berlin Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability, which we hosted at the beginning of September. I was delighted how many of you accepted my invitation. At the Berlin Forum, we shone a spotlight on some new aspects: for example, the economic, social and environmental costs that will arise unless we significantly improve chemicals and waste management throughout the world. Valerie Hickey, Global Director at the World Bank, will speak more on this shortly. UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell has given us a compelling account of the impacts of lead on children. The WTO has highlighted the importance of chemicals management standards for global trade.

Another reason for the slow progress on chemicals management is a lack of funding. Financial support is required for competence building, knowledge sharing, and for ensuring that countries that have just started developing their chemicals management receive the funding they need – for example to set up the necessary authorities. Germany will provide 10 million euros for implementing the framework that is to be agreed within the next two days, to support necessary future actions in this regard. Of course, problems cannot all be solved with money alone. Above all, we need the political will to make changes.

Let us express this will to act in our joint High Level Declaration. A declaration in which we call on all stakeholders – not only those present today – to play their part in achieving the goals to be adopted at ICCM5: to seek solutions, share them with others and implement them together.

My wish is that the UN organisations and other international institutions communicate our goals to their stakeholders. This will ensure that safe management of chemicals and waste is systematically taken into account in sectors like energy, building, transport and finance too. I would like to see the UN General Assembly take a closer look at the implementation of the UN Chemicals and Waste Agenda. Such attention will help combat pollution. And it sends a clear signal to develop innovations for sustainable chemistry.

I grew up in the former East Germany, in a region where chemical industry discharges made the river smell terrible and the water shimmer with all kinds of colours. This reckless treatment of our natural environment was one of the reasons I went into politics. That is why I am delighted that here in Bonn we can jointly set a course for a healthy, toxin-free environment. I wish us every success for the High-level Segment. I hope it will send a firm and united political signal. Such a signal will ensure a lasting focus on chemicals and waste management, and speed up its implementation by all stakeholders.

Thank you.

28.09.2023 | Speech Chemical Safety

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