13 January 2021 – The European Chemical Regions Network (ECRN) took part in the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) stakeholder consultation: “Safe and sustainable chemicals for a toxic-free environment in Europe’s cities and regions”.
The consultation was launched by Mr. Adam STRUZIK, President of Mazovia Region, member of ECRN and rapporteur of the CoR opinionon the European Commission’s communication on the new EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. By gathering local and regional leaders, committed to the implementation of the European Green Deal, the online event looked at the most important challenges and opportunities at regional and local levels related to the Strategy.
Mr. Struzik opened the floor with initial remarks on the Strategy and presenting his draft opinion “Safe and sustainable chemicals for a toxin-free environment in Europe’s cities and regions”.
Elise Vitali from the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), stressed the importance of the scope of the Strategy to protect human and environmental health, and the necessity to keep ambitions high. While appreciating some new commitments present in the strategy such as the ban and phase-out of harmful chemicals, including endocrine disruptors and PFAS, the criteria for essential uses, the account of cocktail effect in chemical assessments, she noted that the strategy lacks to fully incorporate the environmental principles present in EU treaties: the Polluter Pays Principle, tackling pollution at the source and the precautionary principles. She also criticized the better regulation principle which could harm the implementation of the strategy. Finally, she called on Regional and Local authorities to have zero tolerance on compliance, ensure its implementation, and require ambitious policies at the national level.
Monika Banka, Network coordinator of ECRN, provided an overview of the challenges the EU chemical industry is facing and the pathway that the industry is taking towards a green circular transformation of the chemical sector. Chemical manufacturing is the fourth largest industry in the EU comprising 30 000 companies, 95% of which are SMEs, directly employing approximately 1.2 million people and 3.6 million indirectly. She welcomed the EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability and the importance it gives to the chemical sector in Europe, while underlining the sector’s fundamental role to play in the EU Green Deal and in Europe’s race to carbon neutrality. To accelerate the green transition of the chemical industry, we will need to invest in research and innovation, incentivize local and regional collaborations and recognize the value of those places where the shift to sustainability is already happening.
During the discussion many questions were raised concerning the impact of the new Strategy at the regional and local level, whether the new regulation will impact the availability of chemicals, the link between chemistry and agriculture, whether biomass can offer sustainable solutions for the chemical industry green transition, and the illegal dumping of chemical waste and local initiatives and solutions to the problem.
To conclude the event Mr. Struzik stressed the importance of reaching an “Equilibrium”. The safety of chemicals is fundamental and the transformation of the chemical sector needs acceptance. Some examples of this transformation are in the bio-based economy, in the use of biomass for chemical production. Yet, we still face many irregular activities and many cases of not complying with EU regulation. On chemical waste (un-) disposal, a call for EU funds available for local authorities to dispose of illegal dumping sites was made.
The draft opinion of Mr. Struzik is available HERE