An international forum brought together stakeholders to foster a shared understanding of key priorities regarding chemicals and waste management and to explore possible solutions. The gathering of intergovernmental organizations, ministries, the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and civil society supported preparations for the Fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) by promoting a high level of ambition for the anticipated adoption of a “post-2020” multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder framework on chemicals and waste.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary report of the Second Berlin Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability highlights that addressing pollution arising from the unsustainable use and management of chemicals and waste is now recognized as integral to achieving the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. Underscoring that active participation of key players is necessary to achieve a pollution-free planet, the Forum “focused on the contributions of the health, food, and labor sectors, and on the urgent need for innovative solutions to help achieve the desired just transition.”

In a keynote presentation, Richard Damania, Chief Economist, Sustainable Development Practice Group, World Bank, spoke about “the cost of inaction on chemicals management, focusing on lead, cadmium, asbestos, and air pollution as hallmark examples leading to health and economic burdens.”

Four interactive multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral dialogues addressed: food security; human health and the environment; labor and occupational health; and innovation for just transition. Participants discussed national initiatives and policies from Belgium, Canada, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the UK, the US, and Uruguay, which provided insights into how these “could be scaled up to the international level.” Examples included:

  • the use of extended producer responsibility (EPR) as a management tool in India;
  • the national action plan on combating antimicrobial resistance and endocrine disruptors in Belgium; and
  • the new solid and hazardous waste bill the Cook Islands intends to adopt.

Participants also considered potential elements of the new agreement ICCM5 is expected to agree. They emphasized “the need to sustainably transition away from highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs), recognize traditional knowledge and citizen science, and put human rights at the center of the new instrument.”

Concluding the Forum, Christiane Rohleder, State Secretary, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Germany, called for “all stakeholders to work together to reduce the chemicals footprint of our societies.”

The Forum took place from 4-5 September 2023 in a virtual format. It was hosted by Steffi Lemke, German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection. [ENB Coverage of the Second Berlin Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability]