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UN Environment Urges Affirmative Action Now!

………..As Chemical Industry Exceeds  US$5 trillion Mark

Report : Mohammed Abu ,Accra

 With the size of the global chemical industry  exceeding 2.3 billion tonnes valued at  US$5 trillion in 2017, and projected to double by 2030,countries will not meet the internationally agreed goal to minimize the adverse impacts of chemicals and waste by 2020.

There is therefore the need for urgent action now  to reduce further damage to human health and economies.The benefits of action to minimize the adverse impacts of chemicals have been estimated in the high tens of billions of United States dollars annually.

.International treaties and voluntary instruments have reduced the risks of some chemicals and wastes, but progress has been uneven and implementation gaps remain.

This was contained in a UN report,titled ,”The second Global Chemicals Outlook”, presented  during the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi,on Monday.

The report notes that ,despite commitments to maximize the benefits and minimize the impacts of this industry, hazardous chemicals continue to be released to the environment in large quantities.

“They are ubiquitous in air, water and soil, food and humans. The world must take advantage of the many solutions that already exist and are highlighted in the report”

“Whether the growth in chemicals becomes a net positive or a net negative for humanity depends on how we manage the chemicals challenge,” said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment. “What is clear is that we must do much more, together.”

The World Health Organization,the report also notes, estimated the burden of disease from selected chemicals at 1.6 million lives in 2016, which is likely an underestimate. Chemical pollution also threatens a range of ecosystem services.Conversely, the benefits of action to minimize adverse impacts have been estimated in the high tens of billions of United States dollars annually.

“The findings of the second Global Chemicals Outlook are very important for developing countries,” said David Kapindula, a member of the report’s steering committee, from the Zambia Environmental Management Agency.

“They highlight the uneven implementation of chemicals and waste management and point to opportunities for enhanced knowledge sharing, capacity development and innovative financing.”

Global Chemical Industry Scope

From pharmaceuticals to plant protection,the report intimates, chemicals play an important role in modern society and in achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Driven by economic development, population dynamics and other global megatrends, the chemicals market across a range of industry sectors is growing.

“For example, the chemicals market in the construction sector is expected to grow by 6.2 per cent annually, between 2018 and 2023.Meanwhile, chemical production and consumption is shifting to emerging economies, in particular China.

The Asia-Pacific region is projected to account for more than two-thirds of global sales by 2030. Cross-border e-commerce is growing at 25 per cent annually”.

Adverse effects of Agrochmecials

Pesticides the report notes, have been found to negatively impact pollinators, excess use of phosphorous and nitrogen in agriculture continues to contribute to ocean dead zone and chemicals used in sunscreens put pressure on coral reef ecosystems. Studies also indicate that releases of some antimicrobials, heavy metals and disinfectants contribute to antimicrobial resistance.

Solutions-Governments

Touchiing on solutions the report acknowledges that, governments are taking regulatory action on many chemicals.

 Private Sector/Consumer

“Frontrunner companies are advancing standards beyond compliance and sustainable supply chain management. Consumers are driving demand for safer products and production.Industry and entrepreneurs are developing green and sustainable chemistry innovations.

Scientists/Academia

“Scientists are filling data gaps. Universities are reforming the way chemistry is taught. Management approaches – from chemical hazard assessment to risk management and life cycle analysis – are advancing”.

 Opportunities the report further  notes,exist for key influencers such as investors, producers, retailers, academics and ministers to scale up these initiatives. “This would not only protect human health and the environment, but also deliver economic benefits in the high tens of billions of United States dollars annually”.

 The development of a future global platform for the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020 provides a window of opportunity.

The foregoing  framework the reports exhorts, ought to bring together all relevant sectors and stakeholders and foster collaborative, ambitious action.

Given the critical role of the sound management of chemicals and waste in halting biodiversity loss, facilitating access to clean energy and achieving other Sustainable Development Goals and targets, opportunities exist to create synergies with these and other international policy agendas,the report further added .

The Global Chemicals Outlook II: From Legacies to Innovative Solutions – Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has been prepared by UN Environment over the past three years through a process involving more than 400 scientists and experts around the world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

MOHAMMED ABU

Chief Correspondent,,West Africa Region,African Development magazine

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