GEF gives an overview of efforts to improve chemical and waste management | News | SDG Knowledge Center

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has released a document developing its work on chemicals and waste. Among other projects, GEF expects to help countries manage more complex supply chains under a post-2020 Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) framework. The post-2020 framework is currently being negotiated.

Over 100 million man-made chemicals and chemical formulations are used in all sectors of the economy. If used improperly or disposed of safely, they pose significant risks to the environment and human health. Some of these chemicals require global management and are controlled by international law.

Production, use and disposal of chemicals are increasing rapidly in developing and emerging countries.

The document notes that despite the advances made under the various chemical-related agreements, the production, use and disposal of chemicals is increasing rapidly in developing countries and countries in transition economies. In addition, many manufacturers do not always adequately analyze the potential harmful effects of their products before putting them into commercial use. For example, neonicotinoid pesticides — the most commonly used insecticides in agriculture — have been linked to declining bee populations. Chemicals used to manufacture non-stick cookware have carcinogenic properties and as such have recently been banned under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

The document details GEF funding for the reduction and elimination of chemicals covered by the Stockholm Convention, the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The GEF also supports the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).

The document describes the evolution of the GEF’s work on chemicals and waste, explaining that by the fifth replenishment of the GEF Trust Fund (GEF-5), projects will be related to individual chemicals, such as DDT phase-out or PCB management, and individual theme projects such as reducing emissions from waste management. Since GEF-6, an increasing proportion of projects have worked across conventions and priority areas, including artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), the textile supply chain, and the implementation of low and non-chemical content sustainable development in the Small Island Developing Countries (ISLANDS) programme. Through March 2022, over $2 billion has been programmed to support work on chemicals and waste in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

According to the authors, under the Stockholm Agreement, all relevant sectors have been funded, with higher levels of funding programmed in priority areas including: PCB phasing out and management; DDT exit; waste and inventory reduction and elimination; environmentally sound management of POPs; and reducing and eliminating unintentionally generated POPs from industrial and open combustion sources. The GEF has funded each eligible National Implementation Plan and provides resources to update them.

As part of the Minamata Convention, the GEF also: developed the guidelines and framework for the Minamata Initial Assessments, conducted by more than 115 countries; funded over 35 national action plans in the ASGM sector; and helped accelerate the phase-out of mercury in the manufacture of medical devices. Work under SAICM has focused on lead in paint, chemicals in products (including textiles), highly hazardous pesticides and e-waste management.

GEF’s plastics portfolio has historically addressed plastic pollution by preventing emissions from unintentionally generated POPs and has focused on poor incineration of waste, including e-waste, medical waste and agricultural plastics. GEF-6 supported the phasing out of chemicals in plastics, while GEF-7 took a circular economy approach to address the issue. The GEF’s work on chemicals and waste focuses on: creating the conditions and environments conducive to the safe handling of hazardous chemicals and waste; Phasing out listed chemicals and introducing alternatives; Clearing inventory and contaminating materials and products; and the transformation of supply chains towards circularity and sustainability.

The document underscores the need for:

  • Transforming the use of chemicals along the entire supply chain of products, materials and processes, not just at the end-of-life of products and materials;
  • safer and more sustainable materials and chemicals in chemical development and manufacturing; and
  • Increasing demand for safer products and systems for the proper handling of products that still contain harmful chemicals.

In addition, a SAICM framework for the period after 2020 is being negotiated. In this context, the priority area aims to help countries to manage more complex supply chains. The GEF will provide support in the Chemicals and Waste priority area and through several integrated programmes, including elimination of hazardous chemicals from supply chains, food, cities, large biomes and circular solutions to plastic pollution, among others. [Landing page] [Publication: Chemicals and Waste]

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