Was the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability a success?
As we celebrate its one-year anniversary today, on the 14th of October, it is far too early to say. We can however conclude that the strategy and the policies it proposes are still important and needed, and that it has given the chemical issues an appropriate level of attention amongst policy makers.
The Chemical Strategy for Sustainability is a key component in the current commission’s flagship initiative, the Green Deal. After several inactive years, Ursula van der Leyen opened the floodgates with a large number of significant initiatives. The officials at the different general directorates are now working their fingers to the bones in order to improve the legislation, and it is about time.
On the one hand, the chemical industry is needed to solve several of the world’s most pressing problems – something that its representatives repeatedly emphasize. However, the hazardous chemicals that are being produced are posing a direct threat to the health of ordinary people in a variety of different ways.
Many of the chemicals that people are exposed to in everyday products are carcinogenic and toxic, some are disturbing the hormone system which might lead to infertility. Sometimes the exposure is legal, sometimes it is not. Either way, ordinary European citizens deserves to be safe and not exposed to hazardous chemicals.
Delivering on all the promises in the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability might be a demanding task. There are currently a lot of balls in the air, and nobody knows exactly where they will land. The initiatives in the strategy are so significant that some of the key elements of the European chemical’s legislation is up for debate, raising the stakes for the process ahead.
Some of the proposed actions within the strategy are very promising, such as the introduction of an essential use concept, limiting the use of hazardous chemicals to where they are absolutely necessary for functioning of society. So, let’s say goodbye to hazardous chemicals in consumer products!
We believe the three following points will be the most important for the Commission to focus on in the coming year:
1. Propose an ambitious revision of REACH and CLP
It is high time to remove hazardous chemicals from the equation. By introducing new hazard classes, demanding proper information in registration dossiers, reducing the paralysis by analysis, amongst other things, it is possible to create a European chemical legislation that truly protects ordinary European citizens and our environment from hazardous chemicals.
2. Make good use of the essential use concept
It has the potential to make the chemical legislation much sharper and more precise, reducing administrative burden and thus leaving room for improved enforcement. A more efficient chemical legislation is good for everyone.
3. Create market incentives to develop safer alternatives
The criteria for Safe and Sustainable by Design chemicals should result in market incentives that makes the industry as a whole move in the right direction.
The one-year anniversary of the Chemical Strategy of Sustainability is something to celebrate, as the strategy promises what truly is needed for the health and wellbeing of ordinary European citizens. A lot, however, remains to be done and we urge the Commission to deliver on the promises that have been made.
The potential success of the strategy depends on what happens next. ChemSec will help push for everything to move in the right direction, and hopefully we can look forward to even greater celebrations in the future.