April 2019: The first chapter of the Global Chemicals Outlook II (GCO II), which was recently released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), presents an overview of the global chemical industry through data, historic trends, production volume and capacity and related forecasts.

Titled, ‘The Evolving Chemicals Economy: Status and Trends Relevant for Sustainability,’ the Chapter highlights that production capacity of the global chemical industry doubled between 2000-2017. It notes that global sales totaled 5.68 trillion in 2017, if pharmaceuticals are included, which makes the industry the world’s second largest manufacturing industry.

China is estimated to account for almost 50% of global sales by 2030.

The authors note the projected rapid growth of production capacity and sales, which are expected to almost double from 2017 to 2030. It is projected that growth will be highest in Asia. China is estimated to account for almost 50% of global sales by 2030. The Chapter states that growth in the Asia-Pacific region, Africa and the Middle East is expected to be the strongest almost every year until 2022.

Some of the other findings highlighted in the Chapter include:

  • Global megatrends and industry sector trends create risks and opportunities;
  • Chemicals are linked to and affect global material flows;
  • Chemical-intensive products and complex global supply chains create challenges for circularity;
  • Large amounts of chemical pollutants are released from production, products and wastes, which illustrates the inefficient use of resources;
  • Chemical pollutants are ubiquitous in the environment and in humans;
  • The burden of disease from chemicals is high, and vulnerable populations are particularly at risk;
  • Chemical pollution threatens biota and ecosystem functions; and
  • The costs of inaction and the benefits of action are estimated to be significant, but methods need to be refined.

The GCO II was mandated by the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in 2016. It seeks to alert policymakers and other stakeholders to the critical role of the sound management of chemicals and waste in sustainable development by taking stock of global trends as well as of progress made and gaps in achieving the global goal to minimize the adverse impacts from chemicals and waste by 2020. [Global Chemicals Outlook II] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on GCO II Synthesis Report][SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Chapter I: Overview of the Global Chemical Industry] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Chapter II: Progress on Achieving the 2020 Goal] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Chapter III: Chemicals Management Tools and Approaches] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Chapter IV: Enabling Policies and Action to Support Innovative Solutions] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Chapter V: Scaling Up Collaborative Action Under 2030 Agenda