UN Conference Closes With Global Framework to Tackle Chemical Pollution and Waste

Oct. 2, 2023
Event organizers say new framework puts chemicals pollution and waste on the same level of importance as climate change.

Countries and industry stakeholders participating in the United Nation’s Fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) concluded the event on Sept. 30 with the adoption of a global framework for chemicals lifecycle management.

The UN Environment Program (UNEP), which organized the event in Bonn, Germany, says its new framework puts chemicals pollution and waste on the same level of importance as climate change.

Participants, which included chemical industry representatives, committed to “prevent exposure to harmful chemicals and phase out the most harmful ones, where appropriate, and enhance the safe management of such chemicals where they are needed,” according to a UNEP statement.

They also expressed their will to “actively promote and support transitions to circular economies, including through the development of safe chemical and non-chemical alternatives and substitutes, which protect health and the environment, and lead to reduced waste, recycling free from harmful chemicals, and efficient resource utilization.”

The framework establishes 28 targets for chemical management, including:

  • The prevention of the illegal trade and trafficking of chemicals and waste
  • The implementation of national legal frameworks
  • The phase out by 2035 of highly hazardous pesticides in agriculture
  • The transition to safer and more sustainable chemical alternatives
  • The responsible management of chemicals in various sectors, including industry, agriculture and health care
  • Better transparency and access to information regarding chemicals and their associated risks

The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA), which proposed three industry goals ahead ICCM5 (Read: "Global Chemical Consortium Proposes Safety Framework at ICCM Session"), indicated that it supported the targets set forth in the framework.

“To meet these ambitious goals of the new Global Framework on Chemicals and Bonn Declaration, meaningful partnerships between stakeholders serving these objectives are needed,” ICCA said in a statement released following the conference. “We applaud the many contributions highlighted by all those here at ICCM5, and we look forward to the collaboration that will be necessary to ensure the ultimate success of this framework.”

The event's organizers urged conference participants, including governments and the chemicals industry, to exceed agreed-upon targets to protect people and the environment.

“Beating a target is better than meeting a target, so I call on governments, the chemicals industry and everyone involved to go above and beyond what has been agreed to protect people and the planet upon which we all depend,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP. ”Slow or weak implementation will come back to haunt us in the shape of more deaths, more assaults on nature and more economic losses.”

Various sources will finance implementation of the framework, including a pledge of 20 million euros ($210 million) from Germany, the president of ICCM5. 

About the Author

Jonathan Katz | Executive Editor

Jonathan Katz, executive editor, brings nearly two decades of experience as a B2B journalist to Chemical Processing magazine. He has expertise on a wide range of industrial topics. Jon previously served as the managing editor for IndustryWeek magazine and, most recently, as a freelance writer specializing in content marketing for the manufacturing sector.

His knowledge areas include industrial safety, environmental compliance/sustainability, lean manufacturing/continuous improvement, Industry 4.0/automation and many other topics of interest to the Chemical Processing audience.

When he’s not working, Jon enjoys fishing, hiking and music, including a small but growing vinyl collection.

Jon resides in the Cleveland, Ohio, area.