Delegates to the fourth session of the Intersessional Process for Considering the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 (IP4) met on Saturday, 27 August 2022, for two technical briefings. The first presented the concept and main insights from an Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) workshop held on 26 August 2022 on integrated chemicals and waste management, and how the concept could be used in developing a post-2020 instrument. The second featured the Fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) President and IP Co-Chairs outlining the proposed objectives, structure, workflow and expected outcomes of IP4.

Promoting Integrated Chemicals and Waste Management under the Strategic Approach and Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020

Achim Halpaap, UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), moderated the Saturday morning briefing. Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), described how the IOMC  developed its contribution to the post-2020 instrument, which focuses on developing an integrated approach with three dimensions.

ICCM5 President Anita Breyer (Germany) noted that the concepts in the IOMC paper (SAICM/IP.4/INF/18) were presented during the regional consultation meetings for IP4. She suggested the integrated approach had the potential to increase the level of ambition to enhance participation in a post-2020 regime.

IOMC Chair Gabriela Eigenmann, UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), noted that for the approach to work, the IOMC needs all the different sector actors and stakeholders to work together. She suggested that having a Beyond 2020 framework would significantly aid that effort.

IOMC Vice Chair Jorge Ocaña, UNITAR, reviewed the IOMC’s suggestions for changing the five strategic objectives contained in the compilation of recommendations to ICCM5. He said the workshop generally welcomed the integrated management concept and its three dimensions as ways to focus IP4 discussions and possibly further work prior to ICCM5.

Audience members:

  • suggested articulating a business case for the integrated approach;
  • suggested “acknowledging the challenges as really they are” in many developing countries and addressing those specific challenges, not an ideal model; and
  • urged bridging the gap between the “government tribe” and the “industry tribe.”

Bob Diderich, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), presented on the approach’s first dimension: establishing a basic national chemical management system comprising certain priority elements:

  • implementation of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS);
  • a chemicals inventory;
  • integrated approaches to assess and manage chemical risks that address environment, labor, health considerations; and
  • integrated and life cycle approaches to enable a circular economy.

He noted the need for an enabling framework consisting of:

  • effective national institutions, coordination and stakeholder engagement;
  • legislation and enforcement;
  • creating linkages with other relevant initiatives at the national level, such as health-based monitoring;
  • sustainable financing and cost recovery schemes; and
  • sustainable human resource capacities.

Diderich outlined five targets the IOMC is proposing for IP4 to consider linked to the first dimension. He noted that most workshop participants agreed on the GHS, inclusive national inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms, and creating basic legal capacity to assess chemicals and implement risk management decision as the top three priorities. He said the workshop also agreed setting global priorities/targets can provide support and guide countries in their efforts.

The African Group suggested it was easy to pass legislation but more difficult to enforce it. She suggested more focus on targets for industry actors. Diderich said he favored targets for industry but at some point there needs to be legislation to back it up.

The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) said industry favors all three dimensions of the integrated approach and the need for proportionate fee-based systems in each country. She added industry is okay with targets, but noted it has shared, not sole, responsibility.

Pierre Quiblier, UNEP, presented on the second dimension: integrating chemicals and waste management in chemical-intensive industry sectors and values chains. He stressed the approach needs to be applied comprehensively, so no single actor escapes responsibility. He suggested targeting 6-7 “chemical-intensive industries” that can be subjected to a review, after which a dialogue takes place among government, industry, civil society and all those with competence to address the sector's chemical management. Once the dialogue is started, he said, commitments could be defined through the three targets proposed by the IOMC.

Quiblier said the workshop agreed that the key sectors identified by the Second Global Chemicals Outlook serve as a useful starting point, but some refinements are needed. He noted workshop participants suggested initiating the development of guidance before ICCM5, and the considering the development of an international code of conduct.

In the subsequent discussion, participants:

  • urged engaging small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs);
  • welcomed the emphasis on a life cycle approach;
  • expressed interest in the code of conduct; and
  • asked how to offer incentives to participate in a global approach.

Layce Groening, International Labor Organization (ILO), presented on the third dimension, integrating chemicals and waste management within other sustainable development initiatives. She explained the first step was to identify the sustainable development issue to address. She suggested considering:

  • what are the most important sustainable development topics that need to integrate chemicals and waste management;
  • whether actors from those issue communities can be attracted to the Beyond 2020 process;
  • how the Beyond 2020 process can encourage integration of chemicals and waste considerations into other policy processes; and
  • how to achieve such linkages.

Groening detailed three possible targets that may be addressed by Beyond 2020, including:

  • climate change;
  • biodiversity;
  • air pollution and health; and
  • a safe and health working environment.

In the subsequent discussion, participants suggested making national focal points the drivers in getting chemicals and waste management incorporated into other policies, and called for the targets to be more specific and nuanced

In closing, Eigenmann said the IOMC would digest the feedback from the workshop and this briefing and would meet on Sunday, 28 August, to consider what the IOMC can propose in terms of concrete text for the compilation of recommendations for ICCM5.

Scene Setting for Beyond 2020

ICCM5 President Breyer said that at the international level there is a fragmented set of conventions, codes, and standards that only address a small fraction of globally significant chemicals and wastes. She suggested the Beyond 2020 framework should seek to design a chemicals management system “that is truly sustainable across the board.”

Breyer noted that the global chemicals sector is projected to double by 2030, “indicating an urgent need to establish a really sustainable way of living with chemicals” and “managing them across the board in multiple upstream and downstream sectors.” She expressed her conviction that the Beyond 2020 agreement “has the potential to be a powerful international, cooperative, multi-sector, multi-stakeholder instrument that complements and supports” existing international initiatives. 

Breyer suggested the post-2020 framework should address three main issues:

  • protecting the health of children, workers, and consumers, and of the environment;
  • improving chemicals management and cooperation worldwide to achieve to achieve a sound level of protection; and
  • raising public awareness and political support to ensure mobilization of adequate resources.

She urged all IP4 participants to be open to compromise to formulate clear language underpinning an ambitious plan.

IP ad-interim Co-Chair Kay Williams (UK) said the Co-Chairs believe IP4 should provide a clear vision for the post-2020 framework, with a clear set of strategic objectives and a focused outcome that can be easily communicated. She suggested that the framework could address chemicals management capacities such as inventories, pollutant release and transfer registers, and preparation for chemical accidents, and promote the integrated management of chemicals to advance the circular economy in target sectors such as textiles, construction and toys.

Williams suggested linkages with existing multilateral agreements, codes of conduct and standards might be addressed through targets.

Co-Chair Judith Torres (Uruguay) said the Co-Chairs envisioned IP4 objectives to be:

  • a timeless vision that goes beyond 2030;
  • a common understanding of the strategic elements required for a new instrument;
  • a document with “core” elements and annexes that can be updated as needed;
  • clear and simple language to facilitate communication; and
  • ambitious yet achievable agreed goals that engage a wide but relevant stakeholder community.

She outlined the Co-Chairs' expectations for IP4 as:

  • developing a set of targets that support clear and communicable strategic objectives;
  • operationalizing proposals that have been suggested since IP3;
  • defining the scope of the framework primarily through targets and indicators, particularly with regard to wastes;
  • delineating the linkages between the new science-policy panel and the platform;
  • promoting stakeholder participation and partnerships; and
  • tackling financial considerations, especially accessibility of funds.

Torres listed key IP4 deliverables sought by the Co-Chairs:

  • a simple consolidated document for consideration at ICCM5;
  • a common understanding of the new framework and how it will be achieved;
  • a set of targets that include both aspirational and measurable ones; and robust means of taking stock of progress, including criteria for developing good indicators.