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 Netherlands is a signatory to the Rotterdam Convention which is a legally binding obligation to implement the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure for certain hazardous chemicals. The Convention bans or severely restricts the use of certain pesticides and industrial chemicals. The Netherlands is contributing to the secretariat to the Convention and is actively working to stimulate compliance with the provisions of the Convention.
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
This Convention includes 40 companies in the Netherlands. In 2010, the Netherlands was chairman of the Convention and is working in cooperation with neighbouring countries to implement the provisions of 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
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety concerns the international trade and transport of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Although not yet ratified by the major exporting countries and negotiations are ongoing about the global legal liability for damage to biodiversity, the protocol is in line with EU directive on environmental liability. The Netherlands is actively contributing to this process and to capacity building. EU has regulations on GMOs, however, the Netherlands considers the decision to grow GMOs should be made by the Member States themselves.
In addition to the Global Agreements, the EU has various directives and regulations that contribute to reducing environmental risks. Some of these pieces of legislation address chemicals on the EU market, such as the REACH regulation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals). The Netherlands plays a proactive role in the implementation of REACH. The Netherlands has also played an active role in developing the directive on fireworks which incorporates the safety and sale of fireworks in the European Union.
In addition, the Netherlands has participated in the preparation of the Seveso II directive to reduce the risk of major accidents with hazardous substances in companies by preventing and limiting the consequences of such accidents.