February 2019: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the Global Chemicals Outlook II (GCOII) ahead of the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA). The SPM highlights key elements of the GCOII, including: lacking data to assess progress towards the 2020 goal; the development of non-chemical alternatives and the linkages between chemicals and waste, in coordination with the Global Waste Management Outlook; and providing scientific input and options for implementation of actions to reach relevant SDGs and targets up to and beyond 2020.

The Summary, annexed to the report of the UNEP Executive Director (UNEP/EA.4/21) is titled, ‘Global Chemicals Outlook II: From Legacies to Innovative Solutions – Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.’ The document warns that global consumption and production of chemicals has continued to grow since the Global Chemicals Outlook I in 2013. It acknowledges that solutions exist but more ambitious, urgent actions by all stakeholders are needed.

The Summary calls for more ambitious actions to:

  • accelerate progress on sound management of chemicals and waste in order to achieve sound management, and the minimization of adverse impacts, within the context of the 2030 Agenda;
  • develop a framework for the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020 that is aspirational and comprehensive and creates incentives to foster commitment and engagement by all actors in the value chain;
  • implement actions to and beyond 2020 that also reach relevant SDGs; and
  • use the SDGs and targets to stimulate integrated action beyond 2020.

The SPM notes that, in addition to formulating SDG targets on chemicals and waste management, the 2030 Agenda “provides a renewed opportunity to strengthen inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms, and to integrate chemicals and waste considerations into relevant sector policies and actions.”

A life-cycle approach to regulatory systems is critical.

The key findings of the Summary focus on the increasing complexity, associated risks and other issues related to growth in chemical-intensive industry sectors, rapid increase in supply chains and trade in chemicals and products. They address, inter alia: the release of hazardous chemicals and other pollutants in large quantities; actions to minimize adverse impacts on health and ecosystem services; contribution of international treaties and voluntary instruments to reducing risks of certain chemicals and wastes and associated opportunities; prioritizing the needs of developing countries and emerging economies to address legislation and capacity gaps; knowledge sharing, risk reduction beyond compliance, human rights-based policies, green sustainable chemistry education and innovation, and others drivers of change; and filling global knowledge gaps.

The SPM underscores that a life-cycle approach to regulatory systems is critical. It notes that many countries, including several developing countries and economies in transition (EITs), have already made headway in enacting laws, creating programmes and implementing policies to achieve the sound management of chemicals and waste, and highlights these actions’ potential for cooperation, knowledge-sharing and replication. The Summary highlights the development of national chemicals management profiles and plans through multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder collaboration, and notes that these initiatives provide a useful starting point for country-level action beyond 2020, taking into account the overall orientation and guidance of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

UNEA-4 convenes from 11-15 March 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya, under the theme, ‘Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production.’ [UNEP Global Chemicals Outlook Webpage] [Global Chemicals Outlook II: Summary for Policymakers] [UNEP SDG 12 Webpage][SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Chapter I: Overview of the Global Chemical Industry] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Chapter II: Progress on Achieving the 2020 Goal] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Chapter III: Chemicals Management Tools and Approaches] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Chapter IV: Enabling Policies and Action to Support Innovative Solutions] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Chapter V: Scaling Up Collaborative Action Under 2030 Agenda]