The EU risks missing a major opportunity to protect workers, consumers and the environment from serious and growing chemical pollution, the largest consumer, green and union groups warned today, days before the EU announces a raft of environmental policies.
Manmade toxic chemicals are linked to rising health, fertility, developmental and environmental problems, including the collapse in insect, bird and aquatic mammal populations. Last week a damning European Environment Agency report found that hazardous chemicals were one of Europe’s main threats and most off-track policy areas.
The civil society groups called on the European Commission to strengthen failing EU chemical safety laws (letter and political recommendations). The Commission is set to announce its flagship environment programme, the European Green Deal, on Wednesday.
Leaks of the Commission plans suggest president Von der Leyen may fail to follow through on her public commitment to a “zero pollution” goal. The Green Deal has been expected to reiterate the commitment made by all three EU institutions to a Non-toxic Environment Strategy, already overdue, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals but the leaked plans have placed this in doubt.
The leaked plans reflect stated chemical industry preferences. A “package of regulatory measures” by 2021 was part of a draft green deal that emerged on 29 November, but was removed in a second draft seen by the EEB on 2 December. That version contained no chemical policy reforms whatsoever. An “innovation principle” is present in a leaked Commission presentation, roughly a copy and paste of industry proposals.
Industry positions occupy much of a leaked European Green Deal section on chemical safety
Environment ministers from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Spain wrote to the Commission last week again demanding a “non-toxic environment strategy” by 2020.
EEB secretary general, Jeremy Wates, said: “We can only hope that the latest leaks do not fully reflect the current state of thinking in the Commission or that crucial changes to the draft will be made in the remaining days. The biggest environmental policy announcement in years should not feature a rough copy & paste from the wish list of an industry that is doing so much harm to human health and the environment. The so-called innovation principle is shorthand for the kind of freewheeling corporate behaviour that has led to widespread microplastic and nano chemical pollution around the world in the name of progress, with no precautions whatsoever. Ms Von der Leyen should stick to her zero pollution pledge by breathing new life into EU chemical safety laws, which are some of the best in the world, but woefully under-used.”