Panel Discussions in Preparatory Meeting for Commission on Sustainable Development Address Need to Fill Transport Infrastructure Gaps, Manage Hazardous Chemicals
Panel Discussions in Preparatory Meeting for Commission on Sustainable Development Address Need to Fill Transport Infrastructure Gaps, Manage Hazardous Chemicals
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Commission on Sustainable Development
Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
Panel Discussions in Preparatory Meeting for Commission on Sustainable Development
Address Need to Fill Transport Infrastructure Gaps, Manage Hazardous Chemicals
Access to the most basic transport infrastructure was still lacking in many areas around the world, while changes were needed at all levels of society in the management of chemicals, participants said during today’s Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for the nineteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.
Transport and chemicals are two of the five thematic areas upon which delegates attending the upcoming session will focus, in addition to waste management, mining and a 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns. The panellists made presentations on policy options and actions to address barriers and constraints in the implementation of sustainable development in each focal area, taking into account lessons learned and best practices.
As the Commission considered transport in the morning, Roberto Aguerrebere-Salido, Director-General of the Mexican Transport Institute, addressed the divide between urban and rural mobility and poverty, calling for integrated rural development programmes. He said that in order to improve the productivity and living conditions of rural agricultural populations, local market chains must be strengthened and transportation supported. Improving market access for small-scale farmers required investment in local roads, tracks, footpaths and bridges, which would also create opportunities for education and health services, he added.
Discussing the role of railways in future sustainable transport systems, Henning Schwarz, Head of the Sustainable Development Unit at the International Union of Railways, pointed out that rail was a low-carbon mode of transport that could promote a shift towards carbon-free operations. For example, a high-speed rail corridor had opened between Madrid and Sevilla in 1992, resulting in a shift from air to rail transportation and a 60 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, he recalled. The Union was drafting a vision that would strive towards carbon-free operation by 2050, depending on Europe’s electric energy supply.
Speaking about the aviation industry’s role in global trade and tourism, Paul Steele, Director of Aviation Environment at the International Air Transport Association, noted aviation’s responsibility for contributing to climate change by emitting 628 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2010. He noted, however, that over the last 40 years, fuel efficiency in the industry had improved by 70 per cent, thereby saving some 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. New aircraft were significantly more fuel-efficient than those they replaced, he said, adding that, in order to meet the long-term challenge of fuel efficiency, it would be technically feasible to use sustainable biofuels without changing existing engines. However, the challenge would be finding a fuel that would not freeze at high altitudes, as well as obtaining Government financial support for biofuel production.
As the Commission took up chemicals in the afternoon, Klaus Tyrkko, Senior Technical Adviser on Chemicals at the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Montreal Protocol and Chemicals Unit, described the lack of good governance as one of the major culprits responsible for the poor management of chemicals. In many countries, unauthorized chemicals were sold in small roadside shops or transported across borders due to a lack of suitable inspection. He suggested that, in order to improve chemical management, training could be organized on such topics such as overall governance, proper environmental assessments, implementing a life-cycle approach that incorporated recycling possibilities, and securing financial resources for the management of chemicals.
Donald Cooper, Executive Secretary of the Stockholm Convention and Co-Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention, emphasized survival was not possible without chemicals and it was necessary, therefore, to make use of them while mitigating their downsides. He also stressed the importance of public-private partnerships with industry and manufacturers, saying they were key to success. Sound chemical management would increase national revenues, as well as economic and development outcomes, he said.
Paul Sykes, General Manager for Health, Safety, Security and Environment and Sustainable Development at Shell Chemicals, said considerable progress had been made in the management of chemicals through treaties and other initiatives. Strategies aimed at increasing public stakeholder awareness and demonstrating responsible handling had been implemented, including the launch by the International Conference on Chemicals Management of a website that now included 1,400 product safety summaries. Objectives for advancing international chemicals management included promoting public-private partnerships, incorporating chemical regulatory frameworks into national development plans and enhancing capacity in the developing world.
The Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 2 March, to hear panel presentations and hold discussions on the thematic issue of waste management.
The Intergovernmental Preparatory Meeting for the nineteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development met this morning to hold a panel discussion on transport, one of the five thematic areas of focus during the upcoming session. It was expected to discuss chemicals during its afternoon meeting. (See Press Release ENV/DEV/1193 of 28 February)
Panel Discussion on Transport
The following panellists made presentations on policy options to address barriers and constraints in the implementation of sustainable development, taking into account lessons learned and best practices, especially as it applied to the thematic issue of transport: Roberto Aguerrebere-Salido, Director-General, Mexican Transport Institute; Henning Schwarz, Head of Sustainable Development Unit, International Union of Railways, Paris, France; and Paul Steele, Director, Aviation Environment, International Air Transport Association.
EDUARDO R. MENEZ ( Philippines), Vice-Chair of the Commission, said at the outset of the discussion that access to the most basic transport infrastructure was still lacking in many rural areas of the developing world. In cities and urban areas, there was a need for effective public transport services to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution and associated negative health effects. Noting that the international trade in used motor vehicles was growing rapidly, he said a way must be found to avoid unsafe, inefficient and obsolete vehicles.
Pointing out that commuter and long-distance railways could offer low-cost, low-emission transport options, he said ways must be found to improve railway infrastructure and services for the benefit of sustainable development. He noted also that air travel accounted for a small but rapidly growing portion of transport-related greenhouse gas emissions, encouraging “voluntary use” and calling for more effective programmes to off-set growing greenhouse gas emissions from air travel.
He asked participants to focus on the following questions: How could the growing gap in the living conditions and personal mobility of rural and urban areas be reduced? How could it be ensured that investments in land transport infrastructure included adequate components that would enhance non-motorized transport? How could investments be assured in transport infrastructures that advanced sustainable development? And how could the necessary transition towards more sustainable, low-carbon transport systems be accelerated?
KATHLEEN ABDALLA, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the report of the Secretary-General “Policy options and actions to expedite implementation: transport” (document E/CN.17/2011/4), saying it addressed the challenges of development in rural areas and the complexity posed by population growth and other issues in urban areas. It also discussed such topics as integrated planning, new transport technology, transport safety and the importance of global cooperation, drawing on information provided by Governments, major groups and relevant United Nations agencies.
She said basic transport infrastructures remained inadequate in many rural areas, making it difficult for the rural poor to receive basic social services, such as health and education, and for workers to access jobs. Approximately one billion people lived more than 2 kilometres from main roads, which ultimately hampered efforts to realize international development goals. There was need for greater investment and the construction of all-weather rural roads, with the active participation of the communities concerned. She cited the Prime Minister’s rural roads programme in India, which had built 375,000 km of all-weather roads and upgraded hundreds of thousands more, benefiting 178,000 villages.
Turning to urban areas, she said 1 billion more people would need to be accommodated in existing and new cities by 2025. New development should entail new transport systems, she stressed, adding that non-motorized transport should be encouraged, and private vehicle use regulated, particularly in cities. The long-term sustainability of transport systems would be enhanced by efforts to shift from private to public transport and from energy-intensive to low-carbon modes of transport, such as rail and water.
Citing new trends in the transport sector, she said they included hybrid and plug-in automobiles as well as intelligent transportation systems, adding that greater investment in research and development of new, low-carbon modes was urgently needed. The issue of safety was also important, as 1.2 million people were killed and 50 million injured in road accidents every year, with 90 per cent of those accidents taking place in low- and middle-income countries. She said 2011-2020 had been proclaimed the International Decade for Action for Road Safety, noting that all States were thereby invited to define their own safety reduction targets and to implement regulations on seatbelts, drunk driving and speeding, among other things.
The global financial crisis had affected transportation, and a stimulus package aimed at the sector would create new employment, she said, adding that enhancing modern transportation and understanding modern mobility could help support sustainable development. Challenges and opportunities differed among countries, and there was no “one-size” approach, but a major recommendation was to help transition to more sustainable and environmentally-friendly transportation. Efforts to reduce the number of private vehicles were easier where public transport systems already existed, she said, concluding that a sustainable transport future was achievable through the creation of an effective global framework, policy interventions and participation by stakeholders.
Mr. AGUERREBERE-SALIDO addressed the urban and rural mobility and poverty divide, calling for integrated rural development programmes that would increase access to education, including through modern communication technologies. Of the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty in 2005, 70 per cent had lived in rural areas without access to all-weather roads, he said.
In order to improve the productivity and living conditions of rural agricultural populations, local market chains must be strengthened, he said, adding that support for transport was a key aspect of that. Improving access to markets for small-scale farmers required investment in local roads, tracks, footpaths and bridges. Transport services, particularly non-motorized transport, also needed support, he said, noting that improved rural access created opportunities for education as well as maternal and other health services.
Achieving that would require better coordination of transport policies and investments, he said, emphasizing also that keeping poor and vulnerable populations from accessing health services should be addressed. More integrated participatory methodologies were needed, as were social impact assessments of transport-sector interventions. The role of transport in poverty alleviation should be researched, he said, adding that challenges related to mobility and gender, age and vulnerabilities remained unsolved and required specific attention.
In contrast to rural mobility, urban mobility was characterized by high-density population concentrations, he said. Reducing emissions in urban transport was crucial, as they contributed to 23 per cent of energy-related emissions and were growing. Urban public transport should be improved in the areas of safety, frequency, quality and affordability to make it more attractive, he said, adding that the current planning and design of roads could also do with improvement. Single-owner operators should be substituted with professionally managed transport companies, using new technologies, but a competitive, albeit regulated, market should be supported.
The challenge was to double the number of cities providing bus rapid transit (BRT) systems, he said, noting that the Government of Mexico was making an effort to mainstream mobility, and had given local authorities grants to cover the costs of studies and infrastructure improvement programmes. Nothing would better improve the good faith between politicians and public than improving urban transport, he said. Placing people at the heart of policy and planning was key, he added, noting that mobility, after all, was not for vehicles, but for people. They needed access equality as well as safety. It would also be helpful if the value of employment in public transport was raised and the contribution of people working in the sector recognized, he said.
Mr. SCHWARZ said the Paris-based International Union of Railways had about 200 members worldwide and carried out key activities in Europe and Asia. It was also associated with members in North and South America, and worked well with African railways. The Union was the body for technical cooperation worldwide and was committed to global sustainable development, which was part of its mission statement. Discussing the role of railways in future sustainable transport systems, he pointed out that the global rail market was an important employer, having hired more than 6 million people (2 million in China, 1.4 million in India, and 1.1 million in Europe).
The European Union had invested a total of €44.672 million to optimize service, and was seeing an increasing number of railway projects, which the Union welcomed, he said. Between 2000 and 2005, global rail freight had grown by 25 per cent and passenger traffic by 19 per cent, he said, noting a drop during the economic crisis had turned around in the last year. One example of the International Union’s cooperation with African railways was its offer of support to the African Union Commission for the revitalization of the railway network and operations. It had also been drafting a vision for development on the continent and wished to support its African members in training and finding financing.
He said the Union supported the United Nations approach to rail and sustainable development — “avoid, shift and improve” — and believed it could play the biggest role in the “shift” area. Pointing out that rail was a low-carbon mode of transport for freight and passengers, he said one case study of modal shifts involved the high-speed corridor in Spain, where a high-speed line had been opened between Madrid and Sevilla in 1992, resulting in a shift from air to rail transportation. The impact had been a 60 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, he said. The Union was also committing to long-term goals and was drafting a vision that would strive towards carbon-free operation by 2050. However, that would depend on Europe’s electric energy supply.
The Union of Railways hoped Europe would go in the direction of renewable energy, he said, emphasizing that rail had a responsibility actively to seek low-carbon electricity and to define the quality of electricity within the market that it wished to enter. He added that rail was a safe transport mode, citing figures which showed that Germany had suffered only 0.01 deaths per million passengers/km in 2008. Rail also was resource-efficient, he said, noting that a French train could carry the same number of passengers as 129 cars.
He concluded by saying that rail was environmentally friendly, had a role in economic issues, was a big employer, provided access to mobility for all and was one of the solutions to traffic congestion. However, the rail sector was not complacent and had to improve its environmental impact and sustainability. Additionally, it must approve “door-to-door” services, and not just “station-to-station”. Finally, he emphasized that the international community must create integrated systems involving all modes of transport. It would be helpful to define key sustainability indicators for policies, which would also help promote investment and funding.
Mr. STEELE said the aviation industry recognized its role in global trade and tourism, but also its responsibility for contributing to climate change through carbon dioxide emissions. Aviation had transported 2.3 billion passengers in 2010, provided 13 million jobs, created 8 per cent of the global gross domestic product and contributed 2 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Aviation was a major driver of tourism and trade. However, all that came with an environmental challenge: while the industry had been seriously impacted by the global recession, it had contributed 628 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2010.
He went on to recall that over the last 40 years, fuel efficiency in the aviation industry had improved by 70 per cent, thereby saving some 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. There were economic incentives to limiting the consumption of fuel, which was the single biggest cost for every airline. In 2008, the industry — airlines, aircraft manufacturers and airports — had signed a common commitment on climate change and put in place a four-pillar strategy.
Outlining the first pillar, he said new aircraft were significantly more fuel-efficient than those they replaced, adding that new materials were being developed for the building of lightweight aircraft, which would result in the use of even less fuel. Secondly, airlines were flying more efficiently in order to reduce the burning of fuel, he said. Airlines and airports were working together in seeking better flying techniques so as to reduce further the amount of fuel used per flights. Another pillar was building efficient infrastructure, in cooperation with Governments and air traffic managements. The fourth pillar consisted of positive economic measures and support to help the industry in the period of implementation.
He recalled that in 2009, the industry had set some global targets: improve fuel efficiency by 1.5 per cent per annum until 2020; commit to carbon-neutral growth after 2020; and reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 50 per cent by 2050. The targets were based on a solid body of research identifying opportunities for reductions, including through better air-traffic management and greater fuel efficiency. To meet the latter long-term challenge, it was technically feasible to use sustainable biofuels, he said, adding that it could be done without changing existing engines. The challenge, however, was to find the right fuel since ethanol-based froze at high altitudes.
Fuel derived from camina and algae was a possibility, but projects of that kind needed to be scaled up and commercialized, he said. Carbon-offset mechanisms were also being tried by offering each passenger the opportunity to offset his or her footprint. The biggest challenge in that regard was that such credits were not recognized by many States. Governments could help to invest in better air traffic management and promote sustainable biofuel production, he said, urging them to work through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). He cautioned against the unilateral use of national measures in a global industry, saying they sometimes had unfortunate consequences. He recalled that the September 2010 Assembly of the ICAO had adopted the first ever global sectoral agreement to reduce carbon emissions.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates described transportation as a central component of sustainable development, highlighting national measures, sharing lessons learned and offering considerations to be taken into account in future deliberations. A particular issue raised numerous times was the need for efficient modes of transport in order to limit the sector’s impact on climate change and global warming. Many speakers called for more efficient, electricity-powered vehicles, and for the production of biofuels, noting that many developed and developing countries had the conditions to produce them.
One speaker said it was important to stop promoting the idea of one car per family, and to work towards environment-friendly mass transit for all, while another called for the complete phasing out of vehicles powered by fossil fuels. Delegates also asked what barriers prevented the full-scale use of biofuels in aviation; whether there was a programme for making use of airline food that would otherwise go to waste; what sort of research existed on third generation fuels; what would be the opportunity for increasing renewable energy in the rail sector; what major challenges the industry would face before realizing carbon-neutral growth targets by 2050; and whether a study had been carried out on electric-run trains as compared to more efficient passenger vehicles.
Although delegates discussed the question of best practices, another issue addressed repeatedly was the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Speakers stressed that no single policy approach could be applied to all countries owing to their different circumstances, modes of transportation, resources and levels of development. One delegate stated that, while biofuels could help, their production should be studied so that their impact on food production and crop crises in certain countries could be evaluated. Another speaker said a clear distinction was needed between policies for developed and developing countries. He also called for increased investment in cleaner fossil fuels instead of phasing them out. Concern was also expressed about disagreement over the meaning of “green economy” and usage of the term.
Because access to technology and financing remained a challenge, speakers called for policy options that would stimulate international cooperation and partnerships. Representatives of some developing countries noted that they faced external factors beyond their control, including changes in weather, and required increased international assistance, such as preferential market access, grants and financing for transport and communications equipment. They also discussed the need for meaningful global indicators and globally harmonized tools for financing and planning, such as a global mechanism or database that could be used for early warning or as a baseline for policymakers.
Speakers also touched upon providing affordable transportation for such groups as the disabled and elderly. One delegate noted that, while it was important to build roads in remote areas, it would mean the loss of biodiversity in some communities. They should therefore focus on the mitigation of harmful effects and compensation for those affected. Representatives cited measures such as imposing taxes to increase revenues for the labelling of vehicles with regard to carbon dioxide emissions, building parking lots in urban peripheries to promote the use of public transportation use in town centres, and compensating transportation companies for Government regulation of fares charged. One speaker also recommended investing in approaches that avoided travel, such as long-distance video conferencing and commuting.
Panel Discussion on Chemicals
During the afternoon session, the following panellists made presentations on policy options and actions to address barriers and constraints in the implementation of sustainable development in respect of the thematic issue of chemicals: Klaus Tyrkko, Senior Technical Adviser on Chemicals, Montreal Protocol and Chemicals Unit, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Donald Cooper, Executive Secretary, Stockholm Convention, and Co-Executive Secretary, Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention; and Paul Sykes, General Manager for Health, Safety, Security and Environment and Sustainable Development, Shell Chemicals.
SILVANO VERGARA (Panama), Commission Vice-Chair, said at the outset that ensuring sound chemicals management was an important element in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, including that of poverty eradication, considering the critical linkages between chemical production and use on the one hand, and major sectors of developing economies such as agriculture, energy, industry and health on the other. The output of the chemical industry in 2008 had exceeded $3 trillion, he noted, adding that its social impact included employment for 7 million people and supporting 20 million additional jobs.
Significant but insufficient progress had been made in ensuring sound management at all levels, but chemicals still had negative effects on both human health and the environment, he said. As global production, trade in chemicals and their use escalated, placing an increasing management burden on developing countries, future actions must be approached from a life-cycle and sustainable development perspective, he stressed, adding that there was need for changes at all levels in the way in which societies managed chemicals. Although they had a potentially significant positive impact, contributing to agricultural productivity and energy efficiency, on the other hand, the adverse consequences of unsound management of chemicals could be significant and long-lasting. Therefore, the management of chemicals must be an inclusive process, taking cultural values and practices into account and ensuring the participation of women and indigenous peoples, who did not play and adequate part in decision-making processes.
He asked participants to focus on the following issues: strengthening chemicals-management governance at the national and international levels; implementing the life-cycle approach in enhancing chemical safety; helping developing countries strengthen their capacity in chemical risk assessment, prevention and reduction, while end ensuring compliance with relevant international environmental agreements; and establishing effective partnerships with the business sector, industry and other stakeholders on the sound management of chemicals.
ASLAM CHAUDHRY, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introduced the Secretary-General’s report “Policy options and actions to expedite implementation: chemicals” (document E/CN.17/2011/5), saying it responded to constraints and obstacles identified during the Commission’s eighteenth session. Its preparation had benefited from the contributions of Governments, major groups, United Nations agencies and international treaty bodies.
He said the report included four key messages, the first being that while significant but insufficient progress had been made in the sound management of chemicals, they still impacted human health and the environment. The second message was that changes were needed in approaches to the management of chemicals because their global production was increasing and managing them placed an increasing burden on developing countries, which had the least capacity to deal with the challenge.
The approach to managing chemicals must be better informed by their life cycle and the sustainable development perspective, he said, adding that sound management would pave the way to realizing the Millennium Development Goals. On the way forward, he said there was a need to enhance governance at all levels while strengthening legislation on chemical safety. International policy on sound chemical management must be improved and access to sound information assured. There was a need for better coordination among existing mechanisms, and all policy options should be mainstreamed into national development processes.
Mr. TYRKKO said that a good approach to the management of chemicals was no different from good governance in general. For example, the Ministry of Agriculture was generally in charge of pesticides, but its first job was to maximize agricultural output, so it was important to place regulatory control outside the action. The lack of good governance was one of the major culprits in the poor management of chemicals, he said, noting that in many countries, different types of unauthorized chemicals were sold in small roadside shops due to a lack of governance in the form of inspection. There was also trans-boundary movement of unauthorized chemicals and waste, because very few shipments were actually inspected.
He went on to say that schemes had been set for importers to place levies on recycled products, the idea being that they would pay the Environment Ministry, which would pay recyclers. However, it was unclear as to how much one would pay; different importers paid different amounts that were never received by the recyclers — so even a beautiful scheme would not work without proper governance, he said. Improving the management of chemicals required the introduction of overall governance training into such schemes, with the participation of inter-municipal service providers as well as environmental assessments.
There were various challenges to the life-cycle approach, he continued, citing lack of information and information sharing, particularly about risky products. Another trend was that, while there were many global conventions, their many activities did not include the full life-cycle approach in their activities, with various conventions looking at various parts and remaining compartmentalized. Additionally, recycling possibilities were not incorporated in the design of products and this last part of the life cycle should be taken into consideration at the beginning. Ways to further enhance the life-cycle approach included: continuing with information sharing; conducting chemical risk evaluations; introducing chemical criteria into strategic environmental assessments in sectors like agricultural and trade that did not usually include them; and ensuring that information on product components and materials was provided when the goods were manufactured, so that people could see what they contained and how to recycle them.
With regard to securing financial resources for chemicals management, there were ongoing discussions on financing chemicals and waste, he said. Different tracks that were looked into included the private sector, establishing new trust funds or widening existing ones and mainstreaming chemicals in the hazardous waste sector. He explained that mainstreaming was a strategy to translate health and environmental effects into a language where development and finance industries could understand costs and benefits and integrate that into a plan. Integrating chemicals ensured a broader financial basis, as development assistance focused on national plans and was country-driven. Mainstreaming was a financing option that identified development practitioners and all actors who could contribute to solving the problem, and was cross-sectoral by combining available grants, as well as private resourcing.
Mr. COOPER said people living in extreme poverty were adversely affected by poor chemicals management because they had no choice as to where to live. Chemical management tended to suffer from poor governance, he said, stressing that there was no choice on the use of chemicals. Without them one could not survive, and it was therefore necessary that one try to use chemicals without having to live with the “downsides”. Managing chemicals should not be the end point, he said, adding that the goal was to ensure safe food production.
Promoting the sound management of chemicals increased national revenues as well as economic and development outcomes, while reducing health risks and levels of environmental pollutants, he pointed out. It also increased the competitiveness of national industries and enhanced export potential. While significant progress had been made at all levels, the international community must address the movement of chemical management products to emerging economies, he stressed, adding that legislation might be more effective if industry and the rest of the private sector also deliberated on the way forward.
The sustainable management of the chemical industry prevented many costs resulting from clean-up after accidents and contamination of agricultural land. Integration and coherence and framework were key factors in ensuring that as many of the stakeholders as possible participated in governance. It was important to strengthen existing institutions at the international level and to promote collaboration through coherent and efficient partnerships, he said. Chemical management, environmental and health issues were all linked to efforts to realize such goals as food security.
Coordination at the national level was necessary he said, stressing the importance of mainstreaming chemical management into the development agenda. Promoting the sustainable production, management and use of chemicals allowed the avoidance of institutional problems, which was preferable to addressing such problems after they had occurred. He recommended the promotion of “green chemistry”, including environmental auditing, and responsible advertising and marketing. The transfer of knowledge within the industry should also be promoted, he added.
Mr. SYKES said chemical management was “not starting from zero” and had made considerable progress through treaties and other initiatives. In terms of barriers to chemicals management, one trend was that, given the globalized product flows, problems were no longer restricted to countries of origin. As a response, the chemical industry had expanded and intensified initiatives to demonstrate responsible handling of chemicals.
In response to the existing challenges, he continued, the International Conference on Chemicals Management had committed to conducting safety assessments, sharing product safety information, improving the global capacity to implement best practices, and working across the value chain to provide customers with greater knowledge. Additionally, in October 2010, the International Conference on Chemicals Management had launched a global product strategy information portal containing 1,400 product-safety summaries.
On policy options to address constraints, he said the key was further strengthening the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management so as to advance sustainable development objectives, he said, adding that public-private partnerships should also be promoted. Additionally, it was necessary to ensure that regulatory frameworks integrated chemicals management into national development plans to promote transparency in decision-making.
They should also ensure that policy frameworks facilitated products that contributed to sustainable solutions, and enhance cooperation to address the lack of capacity in parts of the developing world, he said. The International Conference on Chemicals Management had already conducted 30 such capacity-building workshops, he said, adding that it remained committed to achieving safe chemical management by the 2020 target year, and would continue to pursue collaboration with other stakeholders.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, speakers stressed that the sound management of chemicals was critical to developing countries, most of which, however, lacked the financial resources and technical capacity to handle chemicals, as well as information on the potential health and environmental risks involved. Broader dissemination of information on chemical safety and stronger cooperative action on such issues as biotechnology, e-waste and other problems could enhance the sustainable management of chemicals, they said. The transfer of technology and technical cooperation, alongside adequate financial support, was necessary, they said, objecting, however, to the transfer of obsolete technologies.
Other speakers emphasized the adoption of a life-cycle approach, which required rules for the registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals. However, future efforts should not undo what had been achieved by adding complexity to the system, duplicating efforts and competing for resources. It was essential, according to another speaker, to improve legislation and enhance safety while preventing and reducing risks; to increase accessibility and information sharing; and to promote alternatives to toxic chemical products. Partnerships should be promoted and the political and legal international framework reinforced.
While supporting implementation of the main chemicals-related multilateral environmental agreements such as the Stockholm, Basel and Rotterdam Conventions and the Montreal Protocol, speakers noted that fulfilling obligations under those treaties was a major challenge for developing countries. They called for a comprehensive global financing strategy for chemicals, and for a global legally-binding instrument on mercury. They also requested the dissemination of more information on highly toxic chemicals, including at the community level, noting that sustainable chemical management could be advanced by strengthening implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management.
One speaker stressed that the harmonization, classification and labelling of chemicals would be crucial in providing small island developing States with information on toxic chemicals. He also called attention to the risks of transboundary movement of hazardous and toxic waste, chemicals and radioactive materials through the territorial waters of small island States, as speakers urged regional cooperation in combating the practice.
Participants also addressed the problems of removing obsolete pesticides and asbestos. Regarding pesticides, one speaker drew a distinction between pesticides and industrial chemical products, saying different approaches were needed. Integrated pest management had demonstrated that the use of pesticides could be reduced with no significant impacts on crop yields while increasing farmers’ profits, he noted. Another speaker pointed out that agrochemicals contaminated food, land and water while industrial agriculture depleted nutrients in the soil and the land, and required petro-chemicals that contributed to greenhouse gases.
A representative of the farmers’ major group, however, emphasized that the use of crop-protecting chemicals and fertilizers helped to sustain soils and lowered food prices, although they posed risks to farmers and the environment. The over-use of pesticides occurred in developing countries, in particular, he said, adding that the enforcement of safety standards left much to be desired.
One participant stressed that sound international chemicals management must begin with countries taking responsibility at the national level. It was imperative that Governments take action to mitigate the risks domestically to protect health and the environment. Pollutant release and transfer registers could enable countries to track and publish the quantities of toxic chemicals released into the environment, while encouraging more robust enforcement of measures to prevent their release, he said, emphasizing that Governments should also provide information on how to respond to chemical accidents.
Another speaker called attention to the fact that harmful chemicals affected women’s health in a different way and that women could transfer toxic chemicals to infants. Measures were therefore needed to protect all women of child-bearing age from exposure. Women should also participate in decision-making on projects concerning chemicals.
Mr. TYRKKO, responding to question about funding mechanisms, said there were several options for broadening the financial basis, which included bringing in the private sector. The necessary resources could be found in existing official development assistance flows, he said, adding that efficiency gains in funding flows could also be found. Since the management of chemicals and waste was a cross-sectoral issue, funding requests should consider broader stakeholder groups than had been done previously, he said.
Mr. COOPER, asked how the Commission’s nineteenth session could follow up on the management of chemicals, and said the comments and ideas presented today provided an excellent opportunity for the Secretariat to put together a paper for submission to the Commission. As for the question of funding, he said some countries were exploring the willingness of industry to contribute. Global and regional banks could also generate revenue for new resources, he added.
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