UNEP spearheads new panel to combat waste and pollution

18 October 2022 | Muriel Cozier

Panel will establish a robust process to fill the gaps in our collective understanding of impacts on planetary and human health from new chemicals and waste streams.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), along with Member States and stakeholders, have formally launched negotiations to establish a science-policy panel on chemicals, waste and prevention of pollution. The science-policy panel had been requested earlier this year during the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly.

The new panel’s remit is to ‘safeguard the planet for future generations’, and will work along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

UNEP has said that with chemicals and mixtures continuously being produced, waste production and management are a challenge in an increasingly urbanised population. UNEP asserts that global waste is expected to grow to 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050. Growing consumption patterns and a lack of greener and more circular economic strategies place more strain on finite resources, UNEP added.

‘Today marks the start of an ambitious process which aims to provide member states with the opportunity to establish a global body aimed at tackling the third of the global planetary crises in addition to the climate and nature crises: pollution, including from inappropriate management of chemicals and waste,’ said Sheila Aggarwal Khan, Director of Economy Division at UNEP.

SCI News - 18 October 2022 - image of Sheila Aggarwal-Khan
Pictured above: Sheila Aggarwal-Khan. Image credit: UN Environment Programme.

With strong support for the work of the panel, delegates stressed the importance of engaging with a wide range of experts and stakeholders, including those from low- and middle-income countries. The next meeting of the working group will take place in Thailand from 30 January–3 February 2023.

The fifth United Nations Environment Assembly was held earlier this year in Nairobi, Kenya, where a resolution was passed to end plastic pollution and establish an international legally binding agreement by 2024. The event also heard delegates call for improvements in measures to manage the disposal of antimicrobial waste.

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