Environmental Risk Management
As the production, trade and use of chemicals increases worldwide so too does concern about their harmful effects. In an effort to limit these risks to human health and the environment, United Nations and EU have been developed various regulations.
The Netherlands is a signatory to a number of international conventions and actively contributes to UN Conventions and EU regulation on limiting the effects of hazardous substances. An important part of the process is establishing synergy and preventing overlap between the various conventions.
The Rotterdam Convention is a legally binding obligation to implement the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure for certain hazardous chemicals. The Convention aims to promote shared responsibility and information exchange in international trade of certain very hazardous pesticides and industrial chemicals. As such, the convention requires that importing countries are notified in advance on these imports and that information on safe use is provided. In the European Union, this convention is implemented through the PIC-regulation. In addition to the substances included in the convention, this regulation sets similar procedures on exports of all chemicals and pesticides that are banned or severely restricted in the EU.
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) concerns non-degradable chemicals of serious risk to man and the environment that accumulate in the food chain.The Convention bannes production and use worldwide of a number of pesticides and industrial chemicals. It also supports developing countries in meeting this obligation. The EU and the Netherlands as a Member State are working continuously to extend the list of banned chemicals and so to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Convention is closely allied with the Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution.
The Helsinki Convention on Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents
The Helsinki Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents is relevant for Seveso-companies situated near our borders with Belgium and Germany. The Netherlands works together with these countries and other parties to the Convention on the exchange of information about possible transboundary effects of industrial accidents. Furthermore, cooperation concerns the prevention, preparedness and response to the effects of industrial accidents as provided by the Convention.
The Basel Convention
The Netherlands has played alongside with the EU an important role in establishing the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The Convention entered into force on 16 August 2017. It draws attention to a global and ubiquitous highly toxic metal that, while naturally occurring, has broad uses in everyday objects and is released to the atmosphere, soil and water from a variety of sources. Major highlights of the Minamata Convention include a ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones, the phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes, control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water, and the regulation of artisanal and small-scale gold mining. The Convention also addresses interim storage of mercury and its disposal once it becomes waste, sites contaminated by mercury as well as health issues. In the EU the convention is implemented mainly through Regulation (EU) 2017/852 (“mercury regulation”), with some provisions being covered by other EU legislation, such as REACH.
Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM)
The Netherlands has contributed, as EU Member State, to implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). SAICM is a policy framework developed by the United Nations Environment Programme to promote chemical safety worldwide. The goal is to manage chemicals throughout their life cycle and to minimise adverse impacts on human health and the environment. Discussions are ongoing about a new framework after 2020. The Netherlands is actively involved in the preparations for this framework.
Mercury directives and regulations
The Netherlands supports the EU in a call for a global convention on mercury, a highly toxic metal causing large-scale pollution of forests and water resources, and irreversible health problems. To reduce the risks posed by mercury pollution, the EU has established directives and regulations.
Protocol on Biosafety
The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), specifically focusing on transboundary movements. The Protocol entered into force in 2003 and is implemented in the EU in Regulation 1946/2003. The Netherlands is an active Party to this Protocol.
In addition to the Global Agreements, the EU has various directives and regulations that contribute to reducing risks to health and environment. Some of these address chemicals that are placed on the EU market, such as the REACH regulation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) which requires that all substances placed on the market in the EU in quantities of more than 1 tonne per year are registered. Other legislation aims to regulate certain products, for instance the biocidal product, hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment or fireworks. The Netherlands plays an active role in developing and implementing this legislation.