Financing Global Effort to Manage Chemicals To Be Key Topic at Upcoming Conference

By Pat Rizzuto  

 

Financing international efforts to safely manage chemicals likely will be a central topic at the upcoming International Conference on Chemicals Management, according to chemical industry and environmental health advocates planning to attend the meeting.

Greg Bond, co-chair of the International Council of Chemical Associations' Chemical Policy and Health Leadership Group, said financing options will be “front and center” among the topics participants will discuss.

Those discussions, however, must not overshadow exchanges focused on the goal of achieving the sound management of chemicals by 2020, Baskut Tuncak, an attorney with the Center for International Environmental Law, told BNA Aug. 29.

“We don't want the financial question to block discussions of how to reach the 2020 goal,” Tuncak said.

Discussions need to proceed in parallel on ways to achieve the 2020 goal and on arrangement of financing, he said.

Conference Scheduled for Sept. 17-21.

Bond and Tuncak were discussing the third session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management, or ICCM3, which will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 17-21.

The conference seeks to advance the United Nations' Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a policy framework to promote the sound management of chemicals.

Adopted Feb. 6, 2006, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, SAICM aims to encourage the goal set at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development that, by the year 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health (30 CRR 193, 2/13/06).

Quick Start Program Set to Expire.

SAICM's Quick Start Program, which was established to help countries with initial work to improve chemicals management, is set to expire at the end of 2013, David Azoulay, managing attorney of CIEL's office in Geneva, told BNA.

The pending expiration raises many questions, including whether the program will be extended, whether its dwindling funds will be replenished, and how to fund chemicals management efforts beyond their initial stage, he said.

The discussions at ICCM3 will take place in the broader context of a proposal by Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program effort, to find a more comprehensive approach to funding global efforts to manage chemicals and wastes, Azoulay said.

Funding Multiple Global Initiatives.

UNEP is launching a discussion of financing not only SAICM but also the Basel Convention on hazardous waste, the Rotterdam Convention on prior informed consent of countries receiving designated hazardous chemicals and wastes, and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, he said.

The proposal calls for the “mainstreaming” of involvement in and financing for chemicals management by industry as well as governments.

“The mainstreaming of chemicals and wastes occurs when governments … integrate the sound management of chemicals and wastes into their development plans and/or priorities,” the proposal says.

It occurs when industry “internalizes the costs of complying with chemicals and wastes regulations; economic instruments are used to recover and shift costs to the private from the public sector; industry transfers technology; industry pays taxes to governments; and industry takes innovative steps to 'green' chemicals and wastes throughout their life cycles,” the proposal says.

In addition to ICCM3, the proposal will be discussed at the 27thsession of UNEP's Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which will be held Feb. 18-22, 2013, in Nairobi, Azoulay said.

Proposal to be Discussed at Other Forums.

The proposal also will be discussed at meetings of the conferences of the parties to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm conventions, which will be held back-to-back during a two-week period from April 28 to May 10 in Geneva, Azoulay said.

That means the financing question will not be resolved at ICCM3, but “a solution will be advanced,” he said.

ICCM3 participants also will discuss efforts they have made to date and plan to make in four areas, Azoulay said.

Those four areas are:

• providing information about chemicals in products;

• eliminating lead in paint;

•  designing electronics so they contain fewer hazardous chemicals and managing those compounds when the electronic products can no longer be used; and

•  using and managing manufactured nanomaterials responsibly.

 

Endocrine Disruptors.

Participants also will discuss whether they should add another emerging topic, endocrine disruptors, to those four, Azoulay said. CIEL supports the inclusion of activities to address endocrine disruption.

Greg Skelton, senior director of global affairs at the American Chemistry Council, and Ernie Rosenberg, who will attend the conference on behalf of the U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB), voiced concern about adding focal areas to those SAICM already is working on.

“We really need to focus on implementation; continually adding new issues isn't helping us get to the [2020] goal,” Skelton said.

Rosenberg, who also is president of the American Cleaning Institute, said the conference needs to focus on its core mission of helping developed countries develop the capacity to manage chemicals safely.

“Nobody has done as much as the chemical industry,” Rosenberg said.

“We have a great story to tell,” said Bond, who in addition to working with the International Council of Chemical Associations is director of environmental health and sustainability at the Dow Chemical Co.

Responsible Care Initiative Broadened.

The chemical industry has broadened its Responsible Care initiative, which was launched in 1985 by the Canadian Chemical Producers Association, to reach 55 industry associations from 60 countries, Bond said. Responsible Care provides specific metrics--such as reducing energy use--that companies use to continuously improve their health, safety, and environmental performance.

Chemical producers in China and India are among those that have joined the effort. In addition, companies in the Middle East “have been showcase models,” Bond said. The international initiative called the Responsible Care Global Charter was launched in Dubai in 2006 (30 CRR 210, 2/20/06).

ICCA will hold a side event during the conference to discuss the progress it has made in spreading Responsible Care, Bond said.

Other Groups to Highlight Efforts.

Countries, intergovernmental organizations, and nongovernmental organizations also will highlight the many different ways they have been fostering the sound management of chemicals, CIEL's Tuncak and Azoulay said.

“We are quite proud of what civil society has been doing,” Azoulay said.

Unlike international conventions, SAICM is a voluntary effort where governments, intergovernmental organizations, and nongovernmental organizations--a group that includes both environmental advocates and industry--all have a voice and role to play in implementation, Skelton said.

Information documents that are being prepared for the meeting play an important role, Tuncak said.

UNEP Documents Coming.

As examples he pointed to three UNEP documents.

The first, Guidance on the Development of Legal and Institutional Infrastructure for Sound Management of Chemicals and Measures for Recovering Costs of National Administration, was released Aug. 14.

The two other documents are scheduled to be released Sept. 5. They are UNEP's Global Chemicals Outlook, which Tuncak said will examine what chemicals are being made and used, changes in chemical production and use, and disposal trends; and UNEP's Cost of Inaction, which he said will examine the economic cost of unsound chemicals management.


Information about and links to documents for ICCM3 are available at http://www.saicm.org/.