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Experts Propose Targets, Process to Establish Indicators for Beyond 2020 Chemicals Framework

The co-facilitators of the Virtual Working Group on Targets, Indicators and Milestones (VWG1) for the Beyond 2020 chemicals framework have issued a final report, detailing proposals based on the outcomes of the Group’s work. The VWG worked to formulate targets for each of the proposed Strategic Objectives for the new Beyond 2020 instrument.The proposals are expected to be discussed during the fourth meeting of the intersessional process considering the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) and the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste Beyond 2020 (IP4), and the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5). VWG1 is one of several virtual workstreams aiming to progress work in advance of these meetings.

The group was mandated with: finalizing the targets proposal set out in SAICM/IP.4/3 (Proposed targets prepared by the Technical Working Group on targets, indicators and milestones for SAICM and the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020), with the aim of enabling multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral commitment and action; and developing a set of recommendations for a process to establish indicators and milestones for the finalized targets.

Co-facilitator Silvija Nora Kalnins (Latvia) and Wajira Palipane (Sri Lanka) issued their report on 19 February 2021 after holding five meetings of the working group. The report includes: possible formulation of targets based on points where stakeholders’ views converge; recommendations for a process to establish indicators and milestones for finalized targets; and an annex with new targets proposed by stakeholders, which are not included in the main text of the report. The document also details considerations and components of each target to provide explanations and rationales to further inform the process, and to serve as a “guide” for the wording of targets. 

On Strategic Objective A (measures to prevent or minimize harm from chemicals throughout their life cycle), the VWG discussed the need for countries to have basic capacity, legal frameworks, and institutional mechanisms to manage chemicals and waste. Proposed targets address, inter alia: measures and initiatives that support meeting of countries’ commitments and obligations under chemicals and waste-related multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), as well as health, labor, and other relevant instruments.  

The group expressed support for further discussions on targets related to:

  • preventing illegal international trade and traffic of toxic, hazardous, banned, and severely restricted chemicals;
  • bringing pollution from chemicals and waste to levels that are not detrimental or harmful to ecosystem services and biodiversity; and
  • third-party/private/non-governmental standards, labels and certification schemes.

Under Strategic Objective B (knowledge, data and information), the VWG considered targets that refer to, inter alia: available and accessible data and information, including related to health and safety; information on safer alternatives and substitutes; information on properties and chemicals on the global market; development of tools and guidelines; sharing of best practices; monitoring and enforcement; risk reduction; health and environmental impacts; burden of disease; cost of inaction; education, training and public awareness; benefits of chemicals; vulnerable populations and workers; and gender-responsiveness.

The document highlights the need to identify those responsible for data collection and define accessibility to information and data, when drafting the full framework. The group supported further discussion on new targets related to, among others, implementation and enforcement of the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

Regarding Strategic Objective C (issues of concern), the VWG supported further discussion on new targets addressing process aspects related to issues of concern. The Group noted that discussions on targets must: include the actual issues of concern and a call for action; consider deliberations under VWG3 (Issues of Concern); and ensure targets are measurable.
 
Regarding Strategic Objective D (impacts on human health and the environment), the proposed text includes targets that mention: sustainable chemistry, innovation, cleaner production and life cycle management; strategies and policies, investment approaches, business models, and internationally-recognized reporting standards, for which “internationally-recognized” requires further clarification; and consumer products, sharing information, building capacity, and small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMEs). The VWG supported further discussion on a new target related to research and innovation, sustainable solutions, safer alternatives, and consumer products.

On Strategic Objective E (resources, partnerships and contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development), the proposed targets address: demonstration of commitment to sound chemicals management; integration of chemicals management policies into development strategies; strengthening partnerships and networks across sectors; identifying and narrowing gaps between developing and developed countries in implementing sound chemicals management; and identification and mobilization of financial and non-financial resources in all sectors. Regarding the latter, the co-facilitators highlight the need to refer to the integrated approach to financing, taking into account deliberations under VWG4 (Financial Considerations). 

The VWG supported further discussing new targets on: identifying and strengthening synergies and linkages between chemicals and other environmental, health and societal priorities, such as climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem services, human rights, universal health coverage, and primary health care; and cost recovery mechanisms and internalization of costs, taking into account discussions under VWG4.

Regarding recommendations for a process to establish indicators and milestones for finalized targets, the Group agreed on the need for further work to develop draft targets before extensive work on indicators and milestones. The Group noted indicators should, inter alia, be limited in number to ensure a manageable review and easier communication. The outcome document also notes the monitoring effort should be simple and affordable without compromising the effectiveness of the review process. 

Regarding the indicators process, the Group welcomed the readiness of Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) organizations to support the development of an inventory of currently available indicators. The Group also discussed a UK proposal to provide support on the development of indicators.

The co-facilitators’ final report details two options for a process to further develop draft targets and to identify proposed indicators and milestones, either through a policy expert group alone or through a policy expert group and a technical expert subgroup to help develop the indicators framework. [Co-facilitators’ final report]