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"Beyond 2020 Green Chemistry and Sustainable Chemistry"

WECF at SAICM Intercessional Meeting, 7-9 February 2017, Brasilia, Brazil

23.02.2017 |

WECF took active part in the SACIM intersessional meeting in Brasilia. The meeting aimed to start a discussion about a possible global platform for sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020, when SAICM`s mandate will have ended.

The main topics discussed were: the vision and scope of a future platform; the voluntary, multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approach; the process for responding to new and emerging issues; financing implementation; linkages to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; and the role of sustainable and green chemistry in the beyond 2020 agenda.
The main focus of WECF`s work was on the topic of sustainable and green chemistry, which was promoted by the German government, which also holds the current presidency of SAICM. To facilitate the NGO input and to present the NGO position, WECF contributed significantly to the IPEN paper “Beyond 2020 Green Chemistry and Sustainable Chemistry”, which was presented to the delegates as an official reference document.

WECF/IPEN made the following intervention on green and sustainable chemistry during the plenary:

Both green chemistry and sustainable chemistry are useful in the Beyond 2020 process but neither concept replaces the need for sound chemicals management or dealing with legacy issues. Since the concept of sustainable chemistry is lacking a clear definition, indicators and best practice examples it is premature to include it as a guiding principle in the Beyond 2020 process.
Green chemistry should be an obligatory part of sustainable chemistry. We heard from countries that they are working on integrating the concept of green chemistry in their economies, with great success. Because companies realize that this is what many consumers want and therefore they can increase their market share.

Key elements of either concept should be:

  1. full transparency, enabling consumers, citizens and workers to make full use of their right to know
  2. making the elimination of hazards a top priority, and not compromising that goal by balancing the use of hazardous chemicals with other elements of sustainability
  3. inclusion of non-chemical alternatives, which are very useful for e.g. the implementation of agroecology
  4. emphasis on education and putting green chemistry in the curricula of related occupations and university courses.

We envision as outcome of this process that:
a) UN Environment produces a report focused on practical steps for hazard reduction in chemical design with an emphasis on developing and CEIT countries,
b) capacity building workshops at SAICM regional meetings will be held to inform about how green chemistry can lead to hazard reduction in terms of workers safety c) the private sector implements benchmarking tools to assure hazard reduction in the design of new chemicals and assessment of current products  and reports on progress at each ICCM.

The rapporteur of the informal dialogue on sustainable and green chemistry summarized the discussion about the topic as follows:

“Moderator Achim Halpaap, UN Environment, reported on the dialogue, noting the growing momentum around the concepts of sustainable and green chemistry, although a
better understanding of the sustainable chemistry concept is needed. Participants, inter alia, discussed: the role of the public, consumers, and indigenous knowledge; the continued need to prioritize action to address chemical pollution risks and legacies of the past, and ensure all countries have basic regulatory capacity to manage hazardous chemicals; focusing on exploring areas of concrete action and identifying the elements of an enabling framework for advancing sustainable chemistry, such as identifying alternatives, innovation, green chemistry education, and incentives structures; and sustainable financing in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.” (source: ENB:

The first intersessional meeting provided a forum for discussions of the structure of a possible SAICM beyond 2020. From our perspective, it is key to have a future structure that provides a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach, that has sufficient financial resources, and that addresses the needs of most vulnerable groups, such as women and children to achieve a toxic-free future.

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