On the second and final day of the 2nd Berlin Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability, participants convened in two high-level dialogues: considering how to strengthen the role of occupational health and safety, and decent work in all sectors that use chemicals; and exploring innovative solutions that can support a just transition. The Forum concluded with a call by Christiane Rohleder, State Secretary, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Germany, for all stakeholders to work together to reduce the chemicals footprint of our societies. She urged drawing on the spirit of unity and action at the upcoming 5th International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) to reach an ambitious agreement in sustainably managing chemicals and waste beyond 2020.
In a keynote presentation during the High-level Dialogue on Labour and Occupational Health, Gilbert F. Houngbo, Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO), stressed that the use of hazardous chemicals in the workplace also affects the public and the environment, and threatens the achievement of decent work and social justice for all. Noting the ILO advocates for fair labor practices, he called for urgent improvement in the management of chemicals in the workplace, combined with a fair and inclusive transition towards a greener economy and a pollution-free planet.
This was followed by a Panel discussion with Aik Hoe Lim, Director, Trade and Environment Division, World Trade Organization (WTO), and Danielle Morley, CEO, Bonsucro, which focused on: ensuring that international trade contributes to the sound management of chemicals; and the standards used in the sugarcane value chain to support chemicals and waste management. Lim explained the work of the WTO on sustainability and a circular economy, discussing how to use trade policies to promote environmental goods and services, their role in reducing unsustainable goods, and working towards a circular economy. Morley provided an overview of the sugarcane industry and described collaboration, collective action, and stakeholder dialogues in problem solving, noting Bonsucro aims to accelerate the sustainable production and use of sugarcane.
The second dialogue, the High-level Dialogue on Innovation for Just Transition, focused on how innovative solutions in chemical-intense sectors can help the global economy transition to an environmentally-friendly, climate-neutral and nature-positive model. Discussions centered on the use of innovations like social networking and artificial intelligence during a panel discussion with: Smail Alhilali, UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); Shannon Lisa, Chemicals and Waste Youth Platform; and Javier García Martínez, President, International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
Alhilali noted that while some hazardous chemicals can be banned, others are essential and require the development of alternatives before they can be phased out. He stressed the roles of innovation, green chemistry, and private sector funding for research and development in creating suitable alternatives. Noting chemicals governance has not achieved a similar level of political attention and coverage as other issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss, Lisa said efforts should focus on “showing the human face of the issue” by identifying those most impacted by chemicals pollution. Martínez discussed emerging technologies in green chemistry, highlighting: sodium batteries that do not require lithium; textile displays that allow all kinds of textiles to be used as screens; and solar fuels that are not based on fossil fuels but are created from carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight.
In a keynote address, Elizabeth Mrema, Deputy Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), on behalf of Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP, urged retaining the benefits of chemical use while minimizing pollution. She said changes will require ambitious and widespread action by all sectors.
Moderator Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions Secretariat, brought the Forum to a close at 3.50pm CET.