3 August 2022
EU Regional Meeting Reviews Progress on Chemicals Management Beyond 2020
Photo Credit: Cici Hung
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The regional meetings discussed the outcomes of the four Virtual Working Groups that were established to maintain momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic and convened between October 2020 and February 2021.

Anita Breyer, ICCM5 President, noted that while the VWGs made significant progress, they were not inclusive enough for some and, therefore, the IP3 agreed text might have to be used as the basis of some discussions.

The EU-JUSSCANNZUK regional meeting provided the opportunity for countries to exchange information and knowledge, and provide updates on progress towards SAICM objectives in the region.

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) convened a series of regional meetings in advance of the fourth meeting of the intersessional process considering the Strategic Approach and sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020 (IP4) and the fifth meeting of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5). The EU-JUSSCANNZUK (Japan, the US, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, and the UK) regional meeting provided the opportunity for countries to exchange information and knowledge and to provide updates on progress towards SAICM objectives in the region.

The ICCM5 Bureau agreed to convene the regional meetings to prepare for IP4 and to: review progress on implementation of the Strategic Approach within the regions; provide guidance on implementation to stakeholders at the regional level; and enable technical and strategic discussions and exchange of information. The meetings discussed the outcomes of the four Virtual Working Groups (VWGs) that were established to maintain momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic and convened between October 2020 and February 2021. It also reviewed IP3 outcome text not considered during the VWGs on vision, scope, principles and approaches, and strategic objectives. 

The EU-JUSSCANNZUK regional meeting convened virtually on 23 June 2022.

Regarding the outcome of the Beyond 2020 intersessional process, ICCM5 President Anita Breyer noted that while the VWGs made significant progress, they were not inclusive enough for some and, therefore, the IP3 agreed text might have to be used as the basis of some discussions.

Co-facilitator Silvija Nora Kalnins presented the report of VWG1 on targets, indicators, and milestones (SAICM/RM/EUJ.7/4). She said the VWG addressed: possible formulation of targets based on areas 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 VWG’s final report. The VWG discussed 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.

Kalnins noted that one of the challenges was reaching a common understanding between the more policy-oriented VWG and the previous Technical Working Group (TWG) on the issue. Another challenge, she said, was the number of targets submitted by participants and the need to agree on priorities. As a possible option, she suggested creating general targets and allowing different stakeholder groups to determine their own milestones.
Noting the VWG avoided discussing waste, she said IP4 will need to consider to what extent the new framework will consider waste. She also underscored the need to agree on the definition of terms such as circular economy, cited an interest to include new concepts such as accident prevention and response, and highlighted the need for a better balance between process-oriented and results-oriented targets.

Co-facilitator Karissa Kovner reported on the outcomes of discussions in VWG2 on governance and mechanisms to support implementation (SAICM/RM/EUJ.7/5), which had addressed proposals on: establishing a science-policy interface; national, sub-regional, regional, international, sectoral, and stakeholder cooperation and coordination; mechanisms for updating and taking stock of progress on the Beyond 2020 framework; and subsidiary and ad hoc bodies. 

She said outputs were categorized into three parts:

  • textual recommendations based on the convergence of views among stakeholders for various sections;
  • recommendations for establishing a science-policy interface, taking into account the more recent decision by the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) to establish a science-policy panel and how this impacts SAICM’s science-policy needs; and
  • recommendations for further consideration of issues in the “Parking Lot,” a document created by VWG2 to reflect areas of work or views that could not be addressed in the context of the mandate or that require additional time for further consideration.

She concluded by presenting next steps and recommendations, including the Japanese proposal for taking stock of progress and updating the Instrument.

Co-facilitator Thomas Jahre Sverre discussed the outcome of VWG3 on issues of concern (SAICM/RM/EUJ.7/6), which had addressed proposals related to the definition of “issues of concern,” submission of information to nominate an issue, the nomination process, initial review and publication of nominations, decision making and adoption, implementation mechanisms, tracking progress, and determining the need for further work on an issue. The final report of VWG3 contains a proposal by a group of NGOs on “trigger criteria” to review existing issues of concern when voluntary work is insufficient.

Sverre highlighted two substance changes: the list of criteria put into the compilation document at IP3 was removed as few supported it; and the idea of a stakeholder committee was introduced, drawn on experience from other fora (such as the Basel partnership). He said the title “Issues of Concern” may need to be revisited if new issues such as sustainable chemistry are addressed.

He also said Emerging Policy Issues (EPIs) could be discussed at ICCM5 and that each EPI should be looked at separately. Many governments supported using the VWG3 outcome as a basis for discussions given the significant progress made, with one mentioning the streamlined nomination process and the proposal on assessing EPIs.

Co-facilitator Reggie Hernaus highlighted outcomes of discussions in VWG4 on financial considerations (SAICM/RM/EUJ.7/7), which had issued proposals related to, among others, an integrated approach to financing, private sector involvement in chemicals and waste management, a clearinghouse mechanism to track development assistance, and a strategy for resource mobilization, including dedicated external financing.

Hernaus identified the main issues that still need to be addressed at IP4, including the three pillars of an integrated approach to financing, capacity building, financing the Secretariat, and private sector involvement. He said the first pillar of an integrated approach – mainstreaming – is unlikely to be controversial, the group will need to consider improving text related to private sector involvement, and ideas such as a capacity-building clearinghouse were put forward but no text was officially submitted. Hernaus said an official proposal is required for an issue to be addressed at IP4.

With respect to the dedicated external finance pillar, Hernaus highlighted the outcomes of the eighth replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF-8), which increased funding to SAICM, the extension of the Special Programme, and the role of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. He said countries will also need to consider the proposal already put forward for a new dedicated fund.

On financing the Secretariat, he said participants will need to decide whether to continue with open voluntary contributions or move to voluntary assessed contributions using the UN scale as proposed by Norway and Switzerland. He acknowledged the small current donor base must be expanded to other stakeholders besides government. He said a decision must be taken regarding whether capacity building should be a separate theme or included in the integrated approach to financing.

One government representative: expressed appreciation of the work of the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), underscoring the role of the private sector; said his government would not agree to legally binding contributions, including a tax, in a voluntary agreement; and explained new funds do not always result in additional funding, and existing mechanisms can be used more effectively.

Lesley Onyon, World Health Organization (WHO), provided an update on behalf of the Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) on activities and outcomes, such as further development of the IOMC toolbox, including new technical guidance and information tools. Achim Halpaap, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), introduced IOMC’s work regarding development and implementation of an integrated approach to chemicals and waste management that moves away from a chemical-by-chemical approach. She highlighted a three-tiered approach, focusing on: basic national chemicals management capacities; key industry sectors and product value chains; and linkages to sustainable development issues. One government representative proposed “digging deeper into different industrial sectors.” ICCM5 President Breyer noted interest from the chemicals conventions in the IOMC’s proposed integrated approach.

Romania presented an update on preparations for IP4, which will take place face to face from 29 August to 2 September 2022 in Bucharest. New dates for ICCM 5 have yet to be announced following its postponement due to the pandemic. [Report of the EU-JUSSCANNZUK Regional Meeting] [SAICM Regional Meetings Website] [SAICM roadmap towards IP4 and ICCM5] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on CEE Regional Meeting] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on LAC Regional Meeting

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