Moving towards safer alternatives

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Agenda 21

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Title: Agenda 21: Earth Summit – The United Nations Programme from Rio

1. Issued by / date / date of implementation

United Nations / June 1992/

2. Type of legislation

International agreement to be transposed by necessary measures by all Parties that have adopted it.

3. General purpose

Agenda 21 is an agenda for the global development in the 21st century. It is a program run by the United Nations related to sustainable development. The global partnership should create acceptance for the need to take a balanced and integrated approach to environment and development questions.

Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action for global, national and local organisations of the United Nations, Governments, and major Groups in every area that have an impact on humans or the environment. It was adopted by more than 178 Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Concerning chemicals six programme areas are proposed:

  • Expanding and accelerating international assessment of chemical risks
  • Harmonization of classification and labeling of chemicals
  • Information exchange on toxic chemicals and chemical risks
  • Establishment of risk reduction programmes
  • Strengthening of national capabilities and capacities for management of chemicals
  • Prevention of illegal international traffic in toxic and dangerous products

4. Substitution relevant paragraphs

  • 9.16 Protection of the atmosphere can be enhanced by replacing chlorofluorocarbons (CFC´s) and other ozone-depleting substances with appropriate substitutes.
  • 9.18 b) Governments should encourage industry to increase and strengthen its capacity to develop technologies, products and processes that are safe.
  • 9.24 e) Governments should replace CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances, consistent with the Montreal Protocol, recognising that the suitability of a replacement should be evaluated holistically and not simply based on its contribution to one atmospheric or environmental problem.
  • 19.21. The activities include “Strengthening research on safe/safer alternatives to toxic chemicals that pose an unreasonable and otherwise unmanageable risk to the environment or human health and to those that are toxic, persistent and bio-accumulative and that cannot be adequately controlled”.
  • 19.23. “Technical cooperation and financial support or other contributions should be given to activities aimed at expanding and accelerating the national and international assessment and control of chemical risks to enable the best choice of chemicals.” Governments should:
  • 19.49 b) “undertake concerted activities to reduce risks for toxic chemicals, taking into account the entire life cycle of the chemicals. These activities could encompass both regulatory and non-regulatory measures, such as promotion of the use of cleaner products and technologies; emission inventories; product labelling; use limitations; economic incentives; and the phasing out or banning of toxic chemicals that pose an unreasonable and otherwise unmanageable risk to the environment or human health and those that are toxic, persistent and bio-accumulative and whose use cannot be adequately controlled”.
  • 19.49. c) “Adopt policies and regulatory and non-regulatory measures to identify, and minimize exposure to, toxic chemicals by replacing them with less toxic substitutes and ultimately phasing out the chemicals that pose unreasonable and otherwise unmanageable risk to human health and the environment and those that are toxic, persistent and bio-accumulative and whose use cannot be adequately controlled”
  • 19.52. h) “Promote and develop mechanisms for the safe production, management and use of dangerous materials, formulating programmes to substitute for them safer alternatives, where appropriate”
  • 19.52. j) “Encourage industry, with the help of multilateral cooperation, to phase out as appropriate, and dispose of, any banned chemicals that are still in stock or in use in an environmentally sound manner, including safe reuse, where approved and appropriate”
  • 19.54. b) “Carry out national reviews, as appropriate, of previously accepted pesticides whose acceptance was based on criteria now recognized as insufficient or outdated and of their possible replacement with other pest control methods, particularly in the case of pesticides that are toxic, persistent and/or bio-accumulative.”
  • 19.60 a) “Direct information campaigns about environmentally safer alternatives to the general public”

5. Assessment of relevance for substitution

Substitution of hazardous substances – especially toxic, persistent, bio-accumulative, ozone depleting and pesticides – with safer ones is an important part of Agenda 21. Administrative measures, research and information activities are means of implementation that the Governments should perform in cooperation with other parties.

6. Link to the text

  • Find the English website here.
  • Find the German version here.

7. Further information

7.1. Studies or publication about the agreement or its impact

  • Publication Implementing Agenda 21 Less is More: Synthetic Chemical Hazards and the Right to Know

Last update: 28.06.2019

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