UN calls for more controls on chemicals
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Coordinated action by governments and industry is needed urgently to reduce the growing risks to human health and the environment posed by the unsustainable management of chemicals, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Its latest Global chemicals outlook warns that risks are being exacerbated by the shift in the creation, use and disposal of chemical products from developed countries to emerging economies, where safeguards and regulations are often weaker.
“The gains that chemicals can provide must not come at the expense of human health and the environment,” said UNEP executive director, Achim Steiner. “Pollution and disease related to the unsustainable use, production and disposal of chemicals can, in fact, hinder progress towards key development targets by affecting water supplies, food security, wellbeing or worker productivity.
“Reducing hazards and improving chemicals management – at all stages of the supply chain – is an essential component of the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and inclusive green economy.”
The UNEP predicts that global chemical sales will increase by around 3% a year until 2050, and warns that synthetic chemicals are fast becoming the largest constituents of waste streams and pollution around the world, thereby increasing the exposure of humans and habitats to chemical hazards.
The key environmental concerns from the growing use of chemicals include pesticide and fertilizer contamination of rivers and lakes, heavy metal pollution associated with cement and textile production, and dioxin contamination from mining.
Run-off from fertilizers and pesticides is contributing to a growing number of oxygen-poor “dead zones” in coastal waters, says UNEP, which reported earlier this year that only 13 of the world’s 169 coastal dead zones were recovering.
The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted Southern Water for thousands of illegal raw sewage discharges that polluted rivers and coastal waters in Kent, resulting in a record £90m fine.
In Elliott-Smith v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the claimant applied for judicial review of the legality of the defendants’ joint decision to create the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) as a substitute for UK participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).
None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.
Global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 4% over the next 10 years, despite the carbon intensity of production declining. That is according to a new report from the UN food agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which forecasts that 80% of the increase will come from livestock.
Half of consumers worldwide now consider the sustainability of food and drink itself, not just its packaging, when buying, a survey of 14,000 shoppers across 18 countries has discovered. This suggests that their understanding of sustainability is evolving to include wellbeing and nutrition, with sustainable packaging now considered standard.
Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.
New jobs that help drive the UK towards net-zero emissions are set to offer salaries that are almost one-third higher than those in carbon-intensive industries, research suggests.