New CIEL report describes a stronger global system for toxic chemicals


For Immediate Release
March 11, 2013


Press Contact:
Amanda Kistler – Center for International Environmental Law:, +1 339.225.1623
Mikael Karlsson – Swedish Society for Nature Conservation: + 46 70 316 727 22

Washington, D.C. – A new report released by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) analyzes existing global agreements for chemicals management and calls for the creation of a comprehensive chemicals regime to protect people and the environment from hazardous substances. Only 22 hazardous chemicals – of possible thousands – are currently managed throughout their lifecycle at the global level.

While acknowledging that significant progress has been made under existing agreements, including the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), Paths to Global Chemical Safety: The 2020 Goal and Beyond concludes that the four principal international agreements in force – the Stockholm, Basel and Rotterdam Conventions and SAICM – are not adequate, even if fully implemented, to protect human health and the environment from the risks of dangerous chemicals.

The current system of narrow treaties focused on individual chemicals, narrow subsets of chemicals, and/or specific moments in a chemical’s lifecycle is unsustainable. A recent report by CIEL, Driving Innovation , shows that stronger laws at the global level spurs innovation of safer alternatives, creating a safer marketplace for consumers and opening markets for businesses. Today’s report, Paths to Global Chemical Safety, proposes a regime that could accelerate innovation at the global level.

“A comprehensive chemicals regime is necessary at the global level to ensure present and future generations enjoy the right to a healthy environment,” said Baskut Tuncak, staff attorney at CIEL and author of the report. “The current piecemeal approach of ensuring chemical safety is grossly inadequate to protect people and the environment, and cannot provide a level playing field for businesses operating in a globalized marketplace.”

The political and economic landscape was vastly different forty years ago when governments first recognized the links between chemicals and serious adverse impacts on health and wildlife, with the potential for trans-boundary harms. The recent UNEP Global Chemicals Outlook shows that the chemical industry has steadily expanded and will continue to do so, both in terms of the quantity of chemicals in commerce and uses for these chemicals. Moreover, production is increasingly shifting to emerging economies like China, which now leads in bulk chemical production, and developing countries whose systems for sound chemicals management are still being developed.

“Europe continues to develop stronger laws governing hazardous substances, which benefit public health and progressive businesses,” said Dr. Mikael Karlsson, President of SSNC. “We would like to see similar steps taken around the world to protect people and the environment, particularly in developing countries where policies are often comparatively weak. A comprehensive chemicals convention would establish global standards and enable countries to enact legislation to this effect.”

The report proposes two options to achieve a global chemicals regime that would have the breadth and rigor to address the issues. The first approach uses existing agreements and programs, suggesting changes to improve their effectiveness, broaden the range of chemicals covered and develop compliance procedures and adequate financial resources. The second, preferred approach anticipates a new, legally binding framework to bring greater coherence, coverage and coordination to international chemicals management.

The report’s findings and recommendations will be presented today at a workshop on global chemicals management in Washington, D.C. and a briefing in the European Parliament on March 26th.


Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is a non‐profit organization that uses the power of law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL is dedicated to advocacy in the global public interest, including through legal counsel, policy research, analysis, education, training and capacity building.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) is Sweden’s largest environmental organization, founded in 1909. SSNC works to protect health and the environment through education, advocacy, green consumerism and conservation projects. SSNC works at the local, national and EU level, and collaborates with some 60 civil society organizations in Africa, Asia and Latin America.