Due to the consumption of chemicals by all industries and their use in most manufacturing processes, the production of chemicals is one of the most important, fastest-growing globalized sectors of the global economy. The essential economic role of chemicals and their contribution to improved living standards for a larger range of societies within industrialised countries and developing countries alike are counteracted by the need to also recognise the potential costs and risks. These include the heavy use of water and energy in many processes, as well as the potential adverse impacts of chemicals on the environment and human health. The diversity and potential severity of such impacts makes sound chemicals management a key cross-cutting issue for sustainable development.
Adverse environmental impacts and human health effects of chemicals are not only addressed by the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), but even more profoundly and pervasively by the regulation known as the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) in Europe. One future goal of Sustainable Chemicals Management is to spread and apply as many of these standards as globally possible. When being used sustainably and innovatively, chemicals have a substantial and positive impact on modern lifestyle and global development. New technologies within the chemicals sector continuously solve problems connected to production processes, disposal processes, as well as creating a new line of ideas for processing and production techniques.
Basel Convention (1992)
The primary objective of the Basel Convention is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes. The Convention’s range of applications cover a wide variety of wastes defined as either “hazardous wastes” or “other wastes”. “Hazardous wastes” are defined by their origin, characteristics and/or composition, whereas “other wastes” consist of two different types of wastes: household wastes and incinerator ash.
- The reduction of hazardous waste generation, and the promotion of environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes including proper disposal facilities;
- The restriction of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes, except for where it is perceived to be in accordance with the principles of environmentally sound management; and
- The development of a regulatory system that applies to cases where transboundary movements are permissible.
The Basel Convention on the “Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal” was adopted on 22 March, 1989 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Basel, Switzerland. This movement occurred in response to a public outcry following the discovery of toxic waste deposits that were originally imported from abroad that were showing up among African countries and other parts of the developing world within the 1980’s.
Rotterdam Convention (2004)
The Rotterdam Convention creates legally binding obligations for the implementation of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure. It was built on the voluntary PIC procedure, initiated by United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 1989, and ceased on 24 February, 2004.
The Rotterdam Convention covers pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for human health safety and/or environmental reasons which have been notified by the Parties for inclusion within the PIC procedure. If there is any indication of a specific chemical posing harm to either humans and/or the environment, an initiation will be made regarding the consideration of that chemical being added to the Annex III section of the Convention. This also includes the use of severely hazardous pesticides within developing and economically transitioning countries being added to Annex III.
- Strengthening control over the international trade of dangerous substances.
- Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure: Exchanging of information for indicating the shared common responsibility and encouraging the cooperation of signatories in order to protect human health and the environment.
- Promotion of the shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm.
- Contribution to the use of environmentally sound methods when dealing with hazardous chemicals by: facilitating the exchange of information about their characteristics, providing a national decision-making process for the proper techniques to safely import and export hazardous chemicals, and propagating these decisions to the Parties.
The Rotterdam Convention was adopted on 10 September, 1998 by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Rotterdam, Netherlands and became active by 24 February, 2004.
Stockholm Convention (2004)
The Stockholm Convention on “Persistent Organic Pollutants” (POPs) is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that: remain intact in the environment for long periods of time, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissues of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health and/or the environment.
Objective: Prohibition or restriction of certain (POPs)
Given their wide transport range, no single government acting alone can protect its citizens or environment from POPs. In response to this global problem, the Stockholm Convention, which was adopted in 2001 and entered into force on 17 May 2004, requires its Parties to take measures in order to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment.
The chemicals of the Stockholm Convention are listed in annexes A, B and C requiring different measures for their reduction and/or elimination.
The production and use of chemicals listed in Annex A must be eliminated: Aldrin, Chlordane, Chlordecone, Dieldrin, Endrin, Heptachlor, Hexabrombiphenyl, Tetrabromdiphenyl ether and Pentabromdiphenyl ether, Hexa- and Heptabromdiphenyl ether, Hexachlorbenzene, Alpha Hexachlorcyclohexane, Beta Hexachlorcyclohexane, Lindane, Mirex, Pentachlorbenzene, Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), technical Endosulfan, Toxaphene, and Hexabromcyclododecane (HBCD).
The production and use of chemicals listed in Annex B must be restricted with specific exemptions and acceptable purposes: Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), Perfluoroctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) its salts and Perfluoroctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF).
The unintentional production of chemicals in Annex C must be minimized and ultimately eliminated: Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDDs/PCDFs), Hexachlorbenzene (HCB), Pentachlorbenzene, and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Currently 23 POPs are listed under the Convention being globally addressed by 179 Parties. Any Party to the Convention may submit proposal for listing a new chemical in the Convention. The POPs Review Committee, a subsidiary body to the Stockholm Convention established for reviewing chemicals proposed for listing in Annex A (elimination), Annex B (restriction), and/or unintentional POPs in Annex C (reduction), evaluates the proposals and makes recommendation to the Conference of the Parties on such listing.
A common secretariat was created in Geneva, Switzerland to improve the cooperation and coordination among the first Conventions: the Basel Convention, the Rotterdam Convention and the Stockholm Convention.
This so-called "Synergies Process" aims to strengthen the implementation of the three previously mentioned Conventions at national, regional and global levels. This process will be accomplished by providing coherent policy guidance, enhancing provision efficiency in order to further aid support to the Parties of the Conventions, reducing their administrative burden and maximizing their effective and efficient use of resources at all levels, while maintaining the legal independence for each one of the three multi-lateral environmental agreements. This unique approach is a successful example to other parts of the global environmental agenda and demonstrates how to enhance international environmental governance through coordination and cooperation.
In addition to initiating reforms to the secretariats of the Conventions on an administrative and operational level, this process is changing the ways in which the implementation of the Conventions are carried out at national and regional levels. The Parties of the Conventions and the entities supporting the countries within the implementation of the Conventions, such as regional centres, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations, will also undertake the efforts needed to increase coherence within the implementation of the Conventions.
Minamata Convention (2013)
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The agreement was established at the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Geneva, Switzerland on 19 January, 2013. The major highlights of the Minamata Convention on Mercury include the banning of new mercury mines, the phasing-out of existing ones, control measures on air emissions, and the international regulation of the informal sector for artisanal and small-scale gold mining. The Convention draws attention to a global and ubiquitous metal that, while occurring naturally, has broad uses in everyday objects and is released into the atmosphere, soil and water from various sources. Controlling the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle has been a key factor in shaping the responsibilities that were established under the Convention.
(Source: the official convention website, see the link below)
- The protection of human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and the release of mercury and mercury-based compounds.
- The restriction of the hazardous impacts of mercury and a radical reduction of mercury emissions.
- Substitution of the products containing mercury including e.g. thermometers, blood pressure meters, energy saving lamps, dental amalgams, etc.
- Introduction of mercury-free processes for the production of chlorine and plastics, coal-burning power plants and gold extraction procedures because of mercury’s detrimental impacts on human health and the environment.
Vienna Convention (1985)
The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer is a framework convention, which served as a scheme to support the efforts on protecting the ozone layer. It was adopted in 1985 and entered into force in 1988. In 2009, the Vienna Convention became the first Convention of any kind to achieve universal ratification. The Convention aims at the promotion of cooperation by the Parties by means of systematic observations, research and information exchange on the effects of human activities on the ozone layer. Moreover, another objective of the Convention is the Parties’ adoption of legislative or administrative measures against activities likely to have adverse effects on the ozone layer.
The Vienna Convention did not require countries to take concrete actions to control ozone depleting substances. According to the provisions of the Convention, the countries of the world agreed on the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer under the Convention to reach that goal.
The Parties to the Vienna Convention meet once every three years, back to back with the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, in order to take decisions designed to execute the Convention.
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was conceived to reduce the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances in order to diminish their abundance in the atmosphere, and to protect the earth’s ozone Layer. The original Montreal Protocol was agreed on 16 September 1987 and entered into force on 1 January 1989. Since its initial adoption, the Montreal Protocol has been adjusted six times.
The Parties to the Montreal Protocol have amended the Protocol to enable the control of new chemicals and the creation of a financial mechanism that enables developing countries to comply.
Besides the adjustments and amendments to the Montreal Protocol, the Parties to the Protocol meet annually and take decisions aimed at enabling effective implementation of this important legal instrument. The decisions adopted by the Parties are included in the reports of the Meetings of the Parties and, along with other documents, considered during the meetings.
Best Practice / Case Studies / Reports
- SYNERGIES: Case Studies on integrating a gender perspective
- MINAMATA: Global Mercury Assessment 2018
- MINAMATA: Reducing Mercury Use in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining: A Practical Guide (UNEP/UNIDO)
- TRENDS IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT Chemicals, mining, transport and waste management
- BASEL: Tools for the development of legal frameworks
- BASEL: Implementation - Programme of Work
- ROTTERDAM: Training Manual
- ROTTERDAM: Guidance to the Experts
- STOCKHOLM: Guidance for Developing a National Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
- MINAMATA: Technical Background Report for the Global Mercury Assessment 2013
- MINAMATA: Technical Guidelines
- VIENNA: Handbook
- MONTREAL: Handbook
- UNDESA/Stockholm Convention/UNEP: Practices in Sound Management of Chemicals
Initiatives / Projects
Conventions / Legislations
- Basel Convention
- The Basel Convention Ban Amendment
- Rotterdam Convention
- Stockholm Convention
- Stockholm Convention - Text
- Stockholm Convention - Amendments
- Synergies among Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions
- Minamata Convention
- Minamata Convention - Text
- The Vienna Convention
- Montreal Protocol