The 2022 Group of 7 (G7) environment ministers reaffirmed their commitment to reduce lead in the environment and the disproportionate lead exposure in vulnerable communities during a workshop that was mandated by the G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers in recognition of lead pollution as a burden on human health and the environment globally.

The workshop, which met under the theme, ‘Lead as a Major Threat for Human Health and the Environment: An Integrated Approach Strengthening Cooperation toward Solutions,’ took stock of activities undertaken by the G7 and others to address lead pollution and discussed options for future work and cooperation to reduce sources of lead and minimize lead exposure in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The workshop convened from 9-10 November 2022 in Berlin, Germany, and online.

The workshop outcomes report states that the workshop, inter alia:

  • identified areas of action to strengthen work to minimize lead pollution and exposure globally, as well as areas of increased cooperation with existing international initiatives and instruments;
  • expressed the need to act and the belief that strengthening international cooperation is important;
  • recognized that further actions would benefit from increasing domestic inter-ministerial and interagency collaboration; and
  • acknowledged that circular economy policies to improve design, reuse, and safe recycling can also contribute to addressing this issue.

The outcome document states that future G7 work to support eliminating lead poisoning, could include, inter alia:

  • strengthening linkages between environment, health, and development officials of G7 members and LMICs to promote effective coordinated action in LMICs to reduce lead poisoning;
  • strengthening institutional capacities in LMICs and helping them develop, implement, and enforce domestic actions to prevent pollution and reduce lead exposure, including by setting lead exposure limits;
  • encouraging development and uptake of safer alternatives, substitutes, and processes and substitution where alternatives are already available to reduce lead exposure in LMICs;
  • increasing awareness among government officials in LMICs, development assistance agencies, and international organizations and institutions about the problem of lead poisoning and cost-effective solutions to reduce exposure within LMICs;
  • helping LMICs conduct initial diagnostic assessments about the prevalence of lead poisoning and identification and ranking of sources of lead exposure;
  • strengthening action by stakeholders, notably concerning prevention, including through multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approaches;
  • encouraging Global Environment Facility (GEF) implementing agencies and other actors in GEF projects, with recipient countries, to continue and strengthen work to build capacity to reduce lead poisoning; and
  • pursuing opportunities for bilateral cooperation to meet LMIC priorities and needs.

A multistakeholder Working Group on Understanding and Mitigating the Global Burden of Lead Poisoning of the Center for Global Development (CGD) provided inputs to the workshop. While the Working Group acknowledges that LMICs must take the lead within their own borders, it recommends that the G7 expand Official Development Assistance (ODA) to invest in global and country-level capacity to monitor, prevent, and treat lead poisoning.

A CGD report titled, ‘Opportunities for the G7 to address the Global Crisis of Lead Poisoning in the 21st Century,’ provides an overview of the global lead poisoning crisis, takes stock of current initiatives within G7 partners and international organizations to reduce lead poisoning globally, and identifies opportunities to make a difference. The report’s key highlights can be found in a document titled, ‘Four Things the G7 Should Know About the Global Lead Poisoning Crisis.’ While the report details the continued pervasiveness of the effects of lead effects, it also presents the crisis as a solvable one, where the G7, through a coordinated and coherent response, can have a real impact. It stresses that the issue can be solved when it “receives policy attention commensurate with its importance.” [G7 Workshop Outcomes] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on May 2022 G7 Climate, Energy and Environment Ministers’ Meeting]