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A Toxics-Free Future


Business should bear chemicals management cost, EU delegate tells ICCM4

Summit debates future funding for Saicm

The cost of chemicals and waste management should be borne by business rather than aid funding, a member of the European Commission's delegation told this week's UN chemicals summit, ICCM4.

Members of a side panel hosted by the UN Environment Programme (Unep) were asked where future funding should come from for programmes like Saicm – the UN's voluntary initiative for improving chemicals management in developing countries. The issue is important because the main source of finance – the UN's national government funded Quick Start Programme (QSP) – will end in 2019. And NGOs say future funding levels for Saicm must be much higher for there to be any chance of meeting the UN's goal of achieving sound chemicals management globally by 2020.

In response, Jill Hanna, an official in the Commission's environment directorate, said companies should be prepared to pay management fees for the whole lifecycle of a product.

The costs to industry are justified, said Ms Hanna, because chemicals and waste management are “multi-trillion dollar" industries.

“I have a difficult time explaining to my colleagues why we, as aid donors, are propping up and making sure [chemicals and wastes] are handled properly,” she added.

Ms Hanna said there are small-scale sector-led initiatives tackling these issues, such as battery recycling, but as a whole, industry should “take responsibility”. But, she added, there still “isn’t the political will” for companies to accept these responsibilities and costs, and accepted that such a transition would not happen soon.

She had hoped, she said, that the QSP would have "sensitised governments to the notion that this is not something that necessarily has to be paid for by a general taxation".

The QSP will be replaced by the UN’s Special Programme. However, as well as Saicm, this will also have to support implementation of the four UN chemicals-related Conventions on:

  • mercury;
  • persistent organic pollutants (POPs);
  • trade in hazardous waste; and
  • the prior informed consent procedure for hazardous chemical exports. 

Future funding

NGOs and national delegations expressed concerns over the future funding of Saicm. India, for example, asked whether adequate funding would be available after the QSP. “An ambitious goal [like Saicm], can never be met through lip service, it needs some means to achieve it and a [dedicated] financial mechanism is one of those means, said its delegate.”

ICCM4 president, Richard Lesiyampe, said he hoped that existing multilateral and bilateral financial mechanisms will take over. However, he invited delegates to identify "new and non-traditional donors".

The QSP was not planned to fund further implementation beyond 2020, but Joe DiGangi, senior science and technical adviser of the International POPs Elimination Network (Ipen), told Chemical Watch that Saicm implementation will not be easy without a dedicated funding system.

“With no implementation mechanism in place," he said, "you have a precarious situation where for the final five years of the mandate there is no substantive, efficient fund to implement activities.”

NGO Sustainlabour told the main conference that finances need to be multiplied to meet the “huge” needs of developing countries. “This is a multi-stakeholder forum and we deserve a multi-stakeholder [funding] mechanism to move us forward.”

In addition to the Special Programme, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) will allocate $13m to Saicm implementation over four years, while the Special Programme has received pledges of around $14m. However, Ipen estimates that the funding needed to fully implement Saicm “in a meaningful way” is $1bn a year.

Leigh Stringer