UNEP Assesses Links between Chemicals and Waste Management and Other Issues

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By International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), March 19, 2020

Ahead of a major international gathering on chemicals and waste management, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released an assessment of chemicals and waste management’s linkages with other issues. The report also provides options for coordinating and cooperating on areas of common interest.

The fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) is scheduled to convene in October 2020, in Bonn, Germany. 

The publication titled, ‘Assessment on linkages with other clusters related to chemicals and waste management and options to coordinate and cooperate on areas of common interest,’ recognizes the need for multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder cooperation to advance the sound management of chemicals and waste and the SDGs. Such cooperation would help streamline and avoid duplication of efforts, increase visibility of priority topics, and bundle resources to achieve common goals.

The authors identify options to coordinate and cooperate across seven clusters: health, world of work, biodiversity, climate change, agriculture and food, sustainable consumption and production, and human rights. Cross-cutting themes highlighted in the report relate to strengthening the science-policy interface, enhancing national coordination and implementation, and promoting stakeholder involvement.
The 2030 Agenda offers a platform to strengthen cooperation across these clusters, the authors note, while the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the Beyond 2020 process for chemicals and waste management provide the opportunity to establish a framework to facilitate enhanced collaborations and coordination. 

For example, regarding health, the assessment mentions further linking the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Chemicals Roadmap with the Beyond 2020 framework. It suggests collaboration between the sectors on pesticides and fertilizers, environmental and health risk assessment of plastics, and lead paint. It mentions health-related SDG targets, including SDG target 3.9 (reducing deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals), SDG target 6.3 (improving water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials), and SDG target 12.4 (achieving the environmentally sound management of chemicals and wastes, and reducing their release to minimize adverse impacts on human health and the environment).
Regarding the world of work, the report highlights linkages to enhancing  cooperation between multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), and collaborating on: chemical accident prevention, preparedness and response; child labor; decent and safe work opportunities; and greening industries and jobs.
On biodiversity, the assessment suggests aligning and strengthening relevant targets and indicators of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and the Beyond 2020 process, as well as collaborating on water birds and lead poisoning, and pesticides use and loss of pollinators.
On climate change, it highlights joint efforts on long-term monitoring data to evaluate climate impacts on chemical releases, and suggests collaborating on climate change impacts on contaminants in the ocean, and waste and resource management to advance mitigation, and climate triggered channeling of fossil fuel use for plastic production.
On the agriculture and food cluster, the report suggests collaborating on, for example: exposure of farmers from unsound pesticides use; groundwater contamination; use of food conservation, coloring agents, and food safety; and addressing food waste. On sustainable consumption and production, the assessment suggests increasing resource management and efficiency, and informing consumers about chemicals of concern in products.

In some cases, the authors argue for collaboration across several clusters. For example, addressing challenges associated with pesticide use requires strengthening efforts across chemicals and waste management, world of work, biodiversity, agriculture and health.
Regarding strengthening the science-policy interface for the chemicals and waste cluster, the report suggests considering experiences from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). A 2019 report by the International Panel on Chemical Pollution titled ‘Strengthening the Science-Policy Interface in International Chemicals Governance: A Mapping and Gap Analysis‘ analyzes the pros and cons of establishing an intergovernmental science policy mechanism.
On stakeholder involvement, the report emphasizes, in line with SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals), efforts to strengthen means of implementation and reinvigorate global partnerships to enhance linkages and collaboration between clusters. It highlights: exploring and strengthening resource mobilization for cross-thematic initiatives; raising awareness on the interconnectedness of clusters to encourage behavioral change; and increasing collaboration between scientific/technical bodies across clusters to conduct research and inform policymakers. [Publication: Assessment on linkages with other clusters related to chemicals and waste management and options to coordinate and cooperate on areas of common interest]