OREANDA-NEWS. Sweden will host an international strategy meeting on chemicals and waste. Current global cooperation in the area of chemicals consists of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), which extends to 2020. Intensive discussions are now under way on what will happen beyond 2020. Sweden wants to form a coalition of ambitious countries to bring about a global framework for chemicals and waste, along the same lines as the Paris Agreement for the climate.

The session in Stockholm will begin on 12 March with an informal high-level segment hosted by Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog. Government representatives from a number of key countries, among them Finland, Germany, and France, will take part in the meeting. The aim is to contribute political input and direction to the expert discussions that will take place from 13 to 15 March. These will be attended by around 400 officials from around the world, who will discuss what form a new framework should take. Sweden, via the Swedish Chemicals Agency, will host the expert meeting together with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“Historically, Sweden has always pushed for stricter regulations on chemicals and waste, both in the EU and internationally. We now have our sights set on a global framework with binding commitments. Through this meeting, we want to initiate a broad dialogue between a number of key countries and create a consensus around the ideal form of a new, ambitious global agreement on chemicals and waste. One possible way forward would be for the countries of the world to make commitments on chemicals and waste in the same way as they made climate commitments in the Paris Agreement,” says Ms Skog.

In Sweden’s view, the sustainable handling of chemicals and waste is a prerequisite for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. It is an issue that has to be dealt with at global level, through a global commitment.

“Hazardous chemicals and waste are directly linked to health, equality, climate and poverty reduction. Initiatives to limit hazardous chemicals can have positive effects in a number of other areas. We cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without tackling issues to do with chemicals,” says Ms Skog.

Increasing private imports of goods risk increasing the spread of hazardous chemicals. A number of countries that are currently major producers of goods partially or wholly lack chemicals controls and regulations. This affects the possibilities to impose health and environmental requirements on production, and to obtain information on the composition of goods. A product ordered online directly from a supplier outside the EU is not covered by the same legal requirements and may, in the worst case scenario, contain substances that are prohibited in the EU because they are harmful to human health or the environment, such as lead or plasticisers (phthalates).

The current international goals for chemicals and waste management under the SAICM apply until 2020. UNEP is the UN body behind the strategy. In the ongoing process on what should happen beyond 2020, Sweden is working for a new and more stringent agreement that can better protect the environment, human health and particularly vulnerable groups such as children. In Sweden’s view, a framework should contain a simple and long-term vision, supplemented by goals, such as reduced risk from the most hazardous chemicals. Sweden also wants to discuss the possibilities of legally binding measures to restrict substances with global impact and global spread, without hindering trade.