Governments, Intergovernmental Organizations, Industry and Civil Society Join Forces for a Chemical-Safe World by 2020

Achieving sound management of chemicals could prevent over 1 million deaths per year globally and massively contribute to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Geneva, 2 October 2015–Over 800 delegates, including ministers, CEOs, heads of intergovernmentalorganizations and leaders of civil society, meeting at the 4th International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4), committed today to step up action to safeguard people and the environment from the risk posed by inadequately managed chemicals.

Of the estimated 100,000+ chemicals on the market today, only a fraction has been thoroughly evaluated to determine their effects on human health and the environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that exposure to chemicals contributes to over 1 million deaths annually.

The infant death rate from environmental causes overall is 12 times higher in developing than in developed countries while childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year.

ICCM4 concluded with a commitment to invest in efforts to prevent these deaths and illnesses by assuring sound chemicals management throughout their lifecycleby 2020.

Achieving that goal would be a milestone toward realizing the historic 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda adopted by 193 countries last week, and containing goals on human health and well-being, food security, sustainable consumption and production, and water and sanitation – all issues directly affected by chemicals.

Addressing delegates at the conference, Mr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), stressed the challenges and opportunities of sound chemicals management, and the growing need for innovative partnerships and better information and knowledge.

Mr. Steiner said: “Chemicals are a part of our lives that we cannot do without. That’s precisely whywe need to fundamentally rethink how chemicals are developed and managed for industrial and commercial applications. Seeking out ad hoc alternatives to toxic chemicals is a Sisyphean effort. To tackle the challenge of green or sustainable chemistry at its root, we will need a shift in mindset and education so that the chemistry of tomorrow is sustainable from the start.”

Dr. Richard Lesiyampe, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Kenya, and President of ICCM4 said:“Projections show an increase in chemical production and use worldwide, with developing countries expected to produce and use by 2020 around 31 per cent and 33 per cent of global chemicals respectively.

“In building a chemical-safe future, we will address some of the most pressing issues that emerge as part of the sustainable development challenge including the need for increased capacity to address, prevent and manage aftermaths of chemical incidences. Strong capacity for governance, knowledge and information-sharing, and risk reduction will also be needed,”

Representatives of the global chemical business at the conference included the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), which has led the“Responsible Care Global Charter”, promoting responsible management of chemicals throughout their lifecycle. UNEP and ICCA agreed to strengthen their partnership for a chemical-safe future.

Mr. Cal Dooley, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council and ICCA Council Secretarysaid: “ICCA is committed to advancing SAICM implementation and promoting the sustainable and effective management of chemicals globally. Through our strengthened partnership, ICCA and UNEP will continue to work together to develop guidance for countries around the world so they can enhance and improve their chemical management systems.”

Well-represented at the conference, civil society has an indispensable role to play in achieving a chemical-safe world by gathering and sharing information, building capacity and empowering those who work with, or are affected by, chemicals everyday.

Dr. OlgaSperanskaya, International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) Co-Chair said: “Goodwill alone will not minimize adverse effects on the people most impacted by chemical exposure – women, children, workers, impoverished communities. Increased financial resources and a sense of urgency are needed if we are going to make progress – curb cancer and other diseases linked to unsound chemical management practices. We call on everyone involved – governments, international agencies, industry, and civil society – to make chemical safety a priority.”

The conference concentrated on five priority policy issues requiring urgent action to protecthuman health and lives – lead in paint, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, chemicals in products, nanotechnology, and hazardous substances in the lifecycle of electronics and electrical products – and went further, by addingenvironmentally persistent pharmaceutical pollutants this week.

In addition, discussions on highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) which pose particular risks to children and have caused health problems and fatalities in many parts of the worldled toa decision topromote ecological alternatives and strengthennational legislation regarding the use of HHPs.

ICCM4 closed by adopting a global plan of action for sound management of chemicals by 2020, which proposes concrete interventions, promotes implementation of existing legal instruments and addresses emerging policy issues.

NOTES TO EDITORS

About ICCM

ICCM is the governing body of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). SAICM – to which UNEP provides the Secretariat – is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world. It is unique for bringing together multiple sectors and stakeholders to address chemicals and waste issues that are not already within the scope of legally binding agreements.

SAICM has as its overall objective the achievement of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment. This “2020 goal” was adopted by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 as part of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.Objectives are grouped under five themes: risk reduction; knowledge and information; governance; capacity-building and technical cooperation; and illegal international traffic.

For more information, visit www.saicm.org

For more information, please contact:

Isabelle Valentiny, Head of Communications, Regional Office for Europe, UNEP Geneva, +41 22 917 8404 or isabelle.valentiny@unep.org;

Lisa-maria.Hadeed@unep.org +41 79 372 1346

BRS and Climate-KIC launch first-ever Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on e-waste

The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions (BRS), together with its partner the European Institute for Innovation and Technology’s Climate Knowledge and Innovation Community (Climate-KIC), is proud to launch the first-ever Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, on the electronic and electrical waste, e-waste challenge.

It is estimated that, by 2018, there will be 50 million metric tonnes of e-waste produced per year, far-outstripping current capacities to properly manage it in an environmentally and socially appropriate manner.

According to Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, in his introductory video address to the MOOC, “In many countries women and children form up to 30% of the workforce in crude, e-waste processing and are therefore particularly vulnerable. When women and girls are affected in this way as the mothers of today and tomorrow, our common future is affected too. This MOOC will introduce you to the challenge of e-waste and especially to its environmentally sound recycling. The course will take you from the problem, to opportunities, and to possible actions at local, regional and national levels, and will guide you through policy tools and best practices for the collection, recycling, and final disposal of e-waste.”

Ebrahim Mohamed, Climate-KIC’s education director, added: “Our MOOC highlights that e-waste is a societal challenge that also is part of larger opportunity to create a prosperous zero carbon future, driven by innovation, jobs, and investment. Climate-KIC is seizing that opportunity by connecting both public and private sectors with climate change-focused education, research and innovation. Ideas are the oxygen of growth in the zero carbon economy, and I am convinced that this collaboration with UNEP will spark many new ones.”

Fast-growing waste stream

E-waste is a fast-growing waste stream in the world and poses a number of serious threats to human health and the environment. Conversely, if undertaken in an environmentally sound manner, e-waste recycling can offer sustainable livelihoods, green and decent work, and contribute to the development of a circular economy.

The course opens on Monday 4th April, and is aimed at students and researchers, policy makers, practitioners, entrepreneurs, e-waste recyclers and government officials and invites participants to become part of the solution to this growing problem. Relevant for developed and developing countries alike, the 8-week programme covers all aspects of e-waste with a view to turn the threat of this global tsunami of e-waste into an opportunity.

The MOOC explores and explains the Basel Convention technical guidelines on transboundary movements of e-waste which were adopted on an interim basis at the last Conference of the Parties (COP) in May 2015, and which provide much-needed guidance on how to identify e-waste and used equipment moving between countries, with the aim of controlling illegal traffic.

E-waste is categorized as hazardous waste due to the presence of toxic materials such as mercury, lead and brominated flame retardants which include some polybrominated diphenyl ethers listed in the annexes to the Stockholm Convention, considered as hazardous waste according to the Basel Convention.

E-waste may also contain precious metals such as gold, copper and nickel and rare materials of strategic value such as indium and palladium. These precious and heavy metals could be recovered, recycled and used as valuable source of secondary raw materials. It has been documented that e-wastes are shipped to developing countries where it is often not managed in an environmentally sound manner, thus posing a serious threat to both human health and the environment.

All interested participants are invited to pre-register at the website www.learning.climate-kic.org/courses/e-waste-mooc

Notes for editors:

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is the most comprehensive international environmental agreement on hazardous and other wastes and has 183 parties. See www.basel.int

The Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions, or BRS, supports parties implement the three leading multilateral environment agreements governing chemicals and waste, in order to protect human health and the environment. See www.brsmeas.org

Climate-KIC (Climate Knowledge and Innovation Community) is the EU’s largest public private partnership addressing climate change through innovation to build a zero carbon economy. They run programmes for students, start-ups and innovators across Europe via centres in major cities, convening a community of the best people and organisations. Their approach starts with improving the way people live in cities. Their focus on industry creates the products required for a better living environment, and they look to optimise land use to produce the food people need. Climate-KIC is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union. See www.climate-kic.org

For more information, please refer to:

Website: www.brsmeas.org

BRS Secretariat – Francesca Cenni, Programme Officer, francesca.cenni@brsmeas.org tel: +41-22-9178364

BRS Press – Charlie Avis, Public Information Officer, Charles.avis@brsmeas.org tel: +41-79-7304495

About POPs

Whereas chemical inventions and use has resulted several advancement in human development, some have been reported to cause toxic reaction, persist for long period in the environment, travel many kilometers and cause long-term consequences both to humans and environment which were never intended. The most popular of these chemicals are those popularly referred to as persistent organic pollutants. Though the risk levels of these chemicals vary they share the following characteristics;

  • They are highly toxic.

  • They are persistent, lasting for years or even decades before degrading into less dangerous forms.

  • They evaporate and travel long distances through the air and through water.

  • They accumulate in fatty tissue.

Twelve persistent organic pollutants have been labeled as the dirty dozen owing to the risk they pose to human and environment. They include;

  • Nine pesticides (aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, hexachlorobenzene, and toxaphene)

  • PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)

  • Dioxins and furans (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins or PCDDs, and polychlorinated dibenzofurans or PCDFs).

    The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) was then established to safeguard people and environment from these dangerous chemical by helping Parties to switch to safer alternatives and to clean up existing stockpiles.The objective of the Stockholm Convention is to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants