by IISD’s SDG Knowledge Hub,

The EU is developing a strategy to reduce the risks associated with producing and using chemicals, as part of the European Green Deal framework. The strategy is intended to simplify and strengthen existing EU rules on chemicals. It is expected to be adopted in the third quarter of 2020.

The Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability will also review ways for EU agencies and scientific bodies to work together and streamline substance reviews through a single agency, in a process termed, "one substance – one assessment." It is aimed at encouraging innovation for the development of safe and sustainable alternatives, as well as facilitating the safe trade of chemicals within the EU.

A road map for the Strategy calls for strengthening and simplifying the chemicals regulatory framework to increase the level of protection of human health and environment, particularly from exposure to endocrine disruptors, hazardous chemicals in products including in imports, and very persistent chemicals. The road map notes that those developing and using safer and more sustainable chemicals are struggling to be competitive. The strategy will support other EC priorities related to, inter alia: strengthening EU competitiveness and i ts industrial and strategic autonomy; ensuring the manufacture and supply of safe and affordable medicines; developing markets for innovative companies; and ensuring strict enforcement of EU legislation.

The strategy will build on an evidence base gathered during recent policy evaluations and chemicals-related initiatives. It will also draw on past and ongoing evaluations of related legislation, particularly in the areas of environment, products, workers’ protection, and food.

Consultations on the road map held in May and June 2020 targeted stakeholders, experts, and the public, to gather input on challenges on the way forward for EU chemicals policy. The feedback addressed, inter alia, fitness of chemicals legislation and options to address the nexus between chemical, product, and waste legislation.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a network of environmental citizens’ organizations, published a position paper detailing its priorities for the  Strategy. The paper highlights that exposure to toxic chemicals increases vulnerability to pandemics such as COVID-19. The authors note priorities including: ensuring transparency on substances in products along the life cycle; ending toxic recycling and promoting a cleaner circular economy; accelerating EU plans for substitution, innovation for safe alternatives, and green chemistry; filling funding gaps through the polluter pays principle; and ensuring EU global leadership for a toxic-free environment. [Chemicals strategy webpage] [EU webpage on European Green Deal