Planned science-policy panel on chemicals, wastes and pollution
UNEA Open-ended Working Group
Currently, there is no global science-policy panel that broadly addresses chemicals, wastes, and pollution. Policymakers need strong science to help inform sound policy. Such an interface between science and policy can help link these two communities and help them communicate: the scientists can speak to policymakers in a way relevant to policy, and policymakers can query scientists to learn more about possible options.
In March 2022 the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) agreed to establish a science-policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution. Substantive discussions will begin at an Open-ended Working Group meeting on 30 January-2 February 2023.
There are many science-policy bodies in the field of chemicals and wastes. Several science-policy bodies are linked to existing chemicals and waste treaties, and, as a result, tend to have narrower mandates, such as screening chemicals to determine if they are persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and should be listed in the Stockholm Convention on POPs. These bodies have provided valuable advice and helped advance knowledge and bring together scientists worldwide, often to work on discrete questions. The new science-policy panel is to complement, but not duplicate, the work of these many bodies while providing a broader overview of scientific knowledge.
The open working group meeting will focus on the new panel’s scope and functions, which both raise challenging questions. The scope could be enormous: there are hundreds of thousands of chemicals in products on the market, hundreds of waste streams, and even more pollutants. Participants will discuss how to define the panel’s scope in a way that complements existing bodies and responds to global and national scientific and policy concerns. They will also have to contend with uncertainty, as there are many chemicals for which public data is lacking.
Science-policy bodies can serve many functions, from awareness raising and capacity building to providing policy-relevant advice and identifying emerging issues. Awareness raising is a crucial function many hope the new panel can take on, to help bring pollution-related issues on par with climate change and biodiversity.
The UNEA mandate also calls for a “horizon scanning” function, unique among global science-policy bodies, including those for climate change and biodiversity. The new panel could be tasked with identifying future chemicals, wastes, and pollution challenges where preventative action can help avoid the worst health and environmental impacts.
SOURCE: based on IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin https://enb.iisd.org/oewg1-2-science-policy-panel-contribute-further-so…
Last updated 1 February 2023