1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

UN adopts new global rules to reduce chemicals harm

September 30, 2023

The UN has agreed to new safety rules that set targets to protect people and the planet from hazardous chemicals.

An aerial view shows toxic foam, product of the discharge of chemical products, as it covers the water of the Tiete river in Salto, Sao Paulo state, Brazil
Toxic foam, product of the discharge of chemical products, covers the water of the Tiete river in BrazilImage: Amanda Perobelli/REUTERS

New global rules for the safe handling of chemicals were adopted at a United Nations conference in the German city of Bonn on Saturday.

The Global Framework on Chemicals sets out a roadmap for reducing environmental risks from chemicals and waste.

"Everyone on this planet should be able to live and work without fear of falling sick or dying from chemical exposure," said Inger Andersen, executive director of  the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) who organized the conference.

Participants also adopted the Bonn Declaration, in which they committed to ""prevent exposure to harmful chemicals, and phase out the most harmful ones, where appropriate, and enhance the safe management of such chemicals where they are needed."

Pesticides - Europe's toxic business with Brazil

What does the roadmap envisage?

The plan sets out 28 concrete targets and guidelines for key sectors from production to waste. These include preventing illegal trafficking of chemicals and waste, introducing national laws and phasing out highly dangerous pesticides in agriculture by 2035.

It also calls for a transition to more sustainable chemical alternatives, responsible use of chemicals in industry,agriculture and healthcare sectors, and better access to information about the risks associated with different chemicals.

In addition, a system for classifying and labeling chemicals is to be introduced in more countries and a fund is to be created to promote the safe use of chemicals. 

Germany has pledged €20 million to implement the framework, which UNEP will manage.

"The production of chemicals is increasing rapidly. It is therefore high time to curb global pollution," German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke said.

"We have succeeded in agreeing on progressive targets and effective steps for safe chemicals management worldwide."

dh/lo (AFP, dpa)