For the last month, several important European policy makers have stated that a green and sustainable economy is the right medicine to counter the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. For this ambitious agenda to work, it is, however, important that the chemicals legislation is at its core.
At the moment, there is a significant political momentum for change. Last month, an informal Green recovery alliance was launched in the European Parliament, led by French member of Parliament and ENVI committee chairman, Pascal Canfin. His call for mobilisation was signed by 180 policy makers and industry leaders, including twelve European environmental ministers.
Shortly afterwards, Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Commission, proposed a similar agenda in an Euractiv op-ed, stating that European policy makers now have to seize the opportunity to reform and make the European economy greener.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, joined her colleague – an indication that Timmerman’s statement was well-received – with an open address, stating that the Green Deal will be the motor for European economic recovery. The political momentum for a green reform of the European economy is thus unmistakeable.
“It is necessary to phase out hazardous chemicals to create a functioning circular economy”
It is wonderful to see high-ranking European policy makers showing such zeal for a progressive agenda. It will, however, be a bumpy ride to reach the final destination. In the political machinery of Brussels, there are stakeholders that will go out of their way to postpone and delay this process. Far too often, European policy makers are being distracted by red herrings or bogged down in paperwork. Now, however, there is no need for lengthy discussions, just decisive action.
We know what needs to be done on several issues at hand, for example, ChemSec recently described what the European Commission’s chemical strategy must include. Even though the European chemicals legislation can seem tedious at times – the REACH legal text is mindboggling in size – it must play a central role in the creation of a sustainable European economy. It is, for example, necessary to phase out hazardous chemicals to create a functioning circular economy. The chemical strategy is of great importance as every decision on chemicals will have a considerable effect on the economy as a whole.
As the political momentum for a green reform of the European economy is growing, we need to recognise the importance of the chemicals legislation. Real change for a sustainable and green economy is relying on it.