Waiting for REACH: The negative impacts of delaying reform of EU chemical laws

Categories: Chemicals
Types: Report
Published: 15 March 2023
Size: 1.38 MB

Confronted with climate disruption, environmental degradation and the acceleration of biodiversity loss, the European Commission presented in late 2019 the European Green Deal. A symbol of the commitment of the Commission and its President, Ursula von der Leyen, to the prioritisation of climate and environmental issues, it also promised to be inclusive, leaving no one behind. This represented a fundamental shift towards a greener Europe for a more sustainable and fairer society.

One of the Green Deal’s most important chapters to contribute to the zero-pollution ambition is the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS). The CSS was published in 2020 and foresaw the revision of REACH, the EU’s main legislation on chemicals. REACH entered into force in 2007 and after 16 years in operation, numerous studies point at an urgent need to reform REACH and fix major shortcomings that had been identified to increase its level of protection and further strengthen the competitiveness and innovativeness of European industries.

Yet, the EU Commission failed to table its proposal for a targeted revision of REACH by the deadline of 2022 set in the CSS. Instead, it is planning to publish it in the last quarter of 2023. In this study, the EEB and CHEM Trust analysed the impact of such a postponement, showing that the impact goes well beyond a mere delay: the current parliamentary term would have no chance to finish institutional negotiations before elections in 2024, significantly delaying the REACH revision even further, damaging the Green Deal legacy and creating huge uncertainties about the direction of the EU chemicals industry. This would come at a time when clarity is needed regarding the regulatory framework and a clear signal sent to the market and investors regarding the phase-out of hazardous substances and the direction in which innovation will need to go. 

Waiting for REACH: The negative impacts of delaying reform of EU chemical laws
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