Sweden is a party in many international conventions and other international agreements. For several of these, the Swedish Chemicals Agency is participating in the work.
Agenda 2030 and the global sustainability goals
In 2015 the UN General Assembly adopted Agenda 2030 with 17 sustainability development goals (SDGs) and 169 targets which aims at achieving sustainable economic, social and environmental development in the world by the year 2030. Sweden shall achieve the goal of the agenda nationally, and contribute to the achievement of the goals globally.
Several of the SDGs have direct or indirect connections to chemicals. The use of chemicals is today prevalent in the whole society. Preventive chemicals control is therefore a prerequisite for a sustainable development and an important step to achieving most of the goals in Agenda 2030. One of the targets in Agenda 2030 is that by 2020 achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with the agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimise their adverse impacts on human health and the environment.
The Swedish Chemicals Agency’s work with preventive chemicals control, both nationally, within EU and globally is contributing to the implementation of Agenda 2030. The Swedish environmental goal “A non-toxic environment” is an important part of the work.
The global chemicals strategy - SAICM
The global chemicals strategy, SAICM (Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management), is a strategy to reach the international chemicals goal that by the year 2020 achieve the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimise significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health.
SAICM is a political agreement without binding provisions but with a broader scope than the chemicals conventions. Focus is not on single substances but on risk management of chemicals throughout their life cycle.
The year 2020 is coming closer, and continued international work is needed in order to achieve the international chemicals goal. There is a related target in Agenda 2030 (target 12.4), that also should be achieved by 2020. Therefore a new goal and a new strategy needs to be developed, and Sweden is participating in this work called “Beyond 2020”.
The Ministry of Energy and Environment is the Swedish focal point for SAICM and is coordinating the work in Sweden. The Swedish Chemicals Agency is contributing to the work in its capacity as an expert authority.
Globally harmonized system of classification and labelling of chemicals (GHS)
The United Nations decided in 2002 to adopt a globally harmonised system of classification and labelling of chemicals (GHS). The system aims at ensuring availability of information on the dangerous properties of chemicals to enhance the protection of human health and the environment during the handling, transport and use of chemicals.
GHS contains criteria for classification of substances and mixtures based on their physical hazards and hazards to human health and the environment. The system also includes a common standard for labelling with hazard symbols (pictograms), hazard statements and precautionary statements, and a standard for the format and content for safety data sheets.
The implementation of GHS is an important part of sustainable management of chemicals, and this is also emphasised in the global strategy for chemicals (SAICM). To make GHS legally binding, each country or region need to implement the system in their legislation, and UN has urged all countries to do so. GHS was implemented in EU legislation in 2007, mainly by the CLP Regulation. The part of GHS concerning safety data sheets have been implemented in the Reach Regulation. Many other countries, including Australia, Canada, China, Russia, South Korea and the US, have implemented GHS in their national legislation, mainly in the area of workers’ protection.
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
The objective of the Stockholm Convention is a global phase out of substances that are persistent in the environment, are being absorbed by plants and animals, and have negative effects on human health or the environment. These pollutants are also called POPs, Persistent Organic Pollutants. The substances are transported over national borders via air, water and articles. Global bans contributes to the prevention of global spread and occurrence of these substances in imported goods and are therefore also protecting the environment in Sweden.
The Stockholm Convention contains a list of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that are banned or restricted. There is a process for adding more substances to the list. The Swedish Chemicals Agency and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency are jointly responsible for following up and promoting Swedish activities in this work.
The EU POPs Regulation is implementing the Stockholm Convention by banning or restricting the use of the POPs substances in both chemical products and articles within the EU. The POPs Regulation is also implementing the POPs Protocol to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP).
Rotterdam Convention - Prior Informed Consent (PIC)
The Rotterdam Convention makes it possible for countries to in advance receive information about import and export of certain dangerous chemicals and pesticides that are banned or severely restricted in other countries. The countries can then choose to approve or reject the import in accordance with their national rules. This is called “Prior Informed Consent” (PIC). The convention entered into force in 2004 and is currently covering 50 substances.
The EU PIC Regulation is implementing the convention in EU and the Swedish Chemicals Agency is the Designated National Authority (DNA) for the implementation of the provisions.
Minamata Convention on mercury
The Minamata Convention on mercury regulates mercury in a life cycle perspective, from primary mining to final disposal. It is banning or restricting mercury in different products and industrial processes as of 2020 and 2025. The convention entered into force in 2017. The Mercury Regulation implements the parts of the Minamata Convention previously lacking common regulations within the EU.
HELCOM and OSPAR – protection of the marine environment
Sweden is a party to two international conventions regarding protection of the marine environment, HELCOM (Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission – Helsinki Commission) and OSPAR (Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-Ease Atlantic – the Oslo and Paris Commissions).