by IISD’s SDG Knowledge Hub ,

The intersection of the chemicals management and biodiversity agendas was the focus of a discussion organized by the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), through its Community of Practice on Chemicals and the SDGs.

The virtual discussion on 28 April 2021 looked at ways to strengthen the relationship between the two agendas, which participants said is not reflected in the siloed approaches prevalent in the current policy landscape. Internationally, “clusters” of multilateral mechanisms focus on biodiversity and chemicals in relative isolation, and both clusters are considering priorities and strategies for the post-2020 period.

Pollution from the unsafe use of chemicals is one of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss and degradation globally. Simultaneously, functioning ecosystems with healthy biodiversity can help detoxify the environment. For example, trees can reduce air pollution in urban areas and wetlands clean water. Participants identified pesticides as an area where greater collaboration with the biodiversity community would be beneficial. They also highlighted the need to strengthen research collaboration and dialogue, and called for national focal points to promote such engagement at the national level.

As both the chemical and biodiversity post-2020 strategies are expected to include global targets and indicators, which will form the basis for national reporting and monitoring progress made, speakers called to strengthen dialogue at the national level to ensure delivery and implementation of the post-2020 global frameworks. Participants also stressed the need to mainstream both biodiversity and chemicals across different ministries to avoid the siloed approach.

Participants considered the extent to which biodiversity-related discussions are happening within national and other chemical planning processes, and chemical-related discussions are happening within biodiversity processes as a part of the development of the post-2020 frameworks - and how might they be strengthened. They said connecting biodiversity and SAICM focal points at the national level would be particularly beneficial in this regard. They noted that the biodiversity community is negotiating a target on pollution related to plastics, nutrients, and pesticides, which will become a part of the biodiversity focal points’ responsibility. 

During the discussion, participants also highlighted:

  • ongoing work linking the effects of chemicals mixtures on ecosystems diversity, ecosystem function and, ultimately, ecosystem services;
  • the need to prioritize biodiversity assessment and monitoring;
  • the impact of chemicals on pollinators;
  • the need for more research on the link between chemicals and biodiversity loss;
  • while bioremediation is essential, chemicals could negatively impact biodiversity and further its efficiency;
  • the need to raise awareness about chemicals in the biodiversity community;
  • the need for joint monitoring of chemicals by all relevant stakeholders; and
  • the IUCN Red List, which anyone can search to find out about species in different countries and regions that might be threatened by pollution.

The SAICM Secretariat and the University of Cape Town established the Community of Practice on Chemicals and SDGs to bring representatives from different sectors together and to create a learning network around issues related to addressing chemicals and the SDGs. [Discussion agenda] [Communities of Practice]