ICCM5 Emphasizes Advancing Chemicals Management for a Healthier Planet

The recently concluded high-level meeting, the 5th International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) in Bonn, Germany, focused on the importance of chemical management for both human health and the environment.

The event underscored the need to strike a balance and strengthen the management systems for chemicals and waste to ensure a healthier planet. This effort is imperative to protect human health from harmful chemicals by addressing implementation gaps, establishing connections, and promoting action.

During the conference, a framework was adopted that calls for the prevention of illegal trade and trafficking of chemicals and waste, the implementation of national legal frameworks, and the phase-out of highly hazardous pesticides in agriculture by 2035.

The adoption of the “Global Framework on Chemicals – For a Planet Free of Harm from Chemicals and Waste” ICCM5 was hailed as a significant step towards safeguarding the health of humans and the environment. This framework outlines concrete targets and guidelines for key sectors throughout the entire lifecycle of chemicals.

Chemicals play a vital role in various aspects of our daily lives, from soap and medicines to clothing and food production. They are integral to industrial processes that make our lives easier, safer, and more comfortable on a global scale.

Festus K. Ng’eno, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Environment for Kenya, emphasized that despite efforts to address the triple planetary crises of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution, it is essential to acknowledge the potential harm caused by chemicals. Ng’eno stressed the importance of sound chemical management in enhancing the protection of human health and the environment.

ICCM5
PS Ng’eno Festus during the ICCM5 in Bonn, Germany

Based on the fact that chemicals are purchased and transported globally, the international community, in collaboration with the United Nations, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), established the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

GHS, implemented in 2002 and currently adopted by over 68 countries worldwide, employs intuitive pictograms to classify and label chemicals based on their level of hazard. This system plays a crucial role in safeguarding health by specifying the degree and levels of chemical hazards, ranging from skin irritants to potential organ damage.

The 5th International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5) aimed to address chemical challenges through discussions on sustainable alternatives, circular economy principles, and responsible chemical management.

Eng. Festus K. Ng’eno, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, and Forestry, highlighted the urgent need for continued and strengthened multisectoral and multi-stakeholder involvement, as well as the necessity of enhancing the strategic approach. He noted that the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA5) resolution 1/5 recognized the strategic approach’s crucial contribution to sound chemicals and waste management.

The PS of the environment speaking at ICCM5 emphasized the importance of prioritizing the sound management of chemicals and waste within a just transition and working towards improved processes that protect workers from hazardous chemical exposures.

He also pointed out that environmentally sustainable economies are essential for proper inclusivity, as they enable the creation of decent work opportunities, ensuring that no one is left behind based on the ICCM5’s agenda.

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