Two NGO coalitions have pressed the EU to finalise and publish its delayed non-toxic environment strategy before the current Commission’s term ends this year.
In a letter to the European Commission’s secretary general Martin Selmayr, EDC-Free Europe and Green 10 say they are “very much concerned” that the deadline for the publication of the strategy by the end of 2018 has not been respected.
EDC-Free Europe represents more than 70 NGOs focused on endocrine disrupting chemicals, while Green 10 is a coalition of ten of the largest environmental organisations and networks active at the European level.
Under the 7th Environment Action Programme (7EAP), which steers the bloc’s policies until 2020, the EU executive was legally obliged to release the strategy last year on how it would eliminate toxic substances from the environment.
But in December it said the strategy would be postponed until the new Commission takes office later this year.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) – an independent EU body – in the same month said the 7EAP might not meet its objectives on hazardous chemicals due to incomplete information on risks and exposure levels.
The current Commission’s term of office runs until 31 October, but it is not certain when the next Commission will take over as this depends on the Parliament’s and Council’s approval of its make up. EU Parliamentary elections are scheduled for May.
So far the Commission has only published the sub-studies of the strategy, and a final report on the main study. This highlighted the variety and complexity of risks posed by millions of articles used every day and the inadequacy of current EU law.
“As this Commission’s term nears its end, we call on you to have this strategy finalised [and] to bring it out as soon as possible,” said the NGOs’ letter.
The strategy is essential for driving innovation and the development of sustainable substitutes, and a prerequisite for a non-toxic circular economy, the NGOs add.
They make a set of recommendations, which they say the strategy must have at a minimum. These include:
- a clear timeline and indicators for reducing exposure to toxic chemicals by 2030;
- address chemicals of particular concern across the lifecycle, whether they are used as flame retardants, fluorinated compounds, pesticides or in other ways;
- a mechanism to ensure coordination and consistency across the various European legislation on chemicals; and
- European-wide mandatory information systems on chemicals in consumer products, materials and wastes.
The NGOs’ letter also reiterates the importance of the strategy due to the “urgency to dramatically reduce” exposure to endocrine disruptors.
It calls on the Commission to ensure that a future strategy for a non-toxic environment “builds on and fully complements” its new strategy on EDCs, and that both strategies are “urgently needed”.
The Commission outlined this in a Communication in November after several years of deadlock on issues such as testing methods and identification criteria for the chemicals. But the NGOs say the communication fails to offer concrete actions.
The EU executive has faced criticism from NGOs and EU member states for being “much too slow” in implementing chemicals policies under the programme to control EDCs, nanomaterials and hazardous substances in articles.