The conference "Tomorrow's Chemicals Policy: Perspectives and Challenges" took place on 23 and 24 April 2024 in the context of the Belgian Presidency. The FPS Public Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment organised this two-day conference to assess the progress achieved so far and anticipate the remaining challenges that lie ahead in the field of risk management of chemicals.

Hazardous chemicals and chemical waste polluting our environment and threatening our health and the health of our planet is a pressing concern. The Green Deal, the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability and the activities for Safe and Sustainable by Design opened ways for innovation and a toxic-free environment, and progress has been made towards better safeguards for people and environment. Nevertheless, in light of the current global challenges, “we must redouble our efforts to promote innovation, encourage the adoption of more sustainable practices, and strengthen EU legislation such as REACH and the PIC Regulation on trade of certain hazardous chemicals.”  stressed the Belgian Minister of Climate, the Environment, Sustainable Development and Green Deal at the opening of the conference. “It is essential that we continue to move forward together to steer toward a safer and more sustainable future”.
Chemicals policy from all angles

More than 200 participants (among which policymakers, business operators and their associations, as well as civil society associations, and academia) attended the event which represented a unique opportunity to reflect on the achievements and remaining challenges of EU and international chemicals policy. Speakers from authorities, industry, civil society, academia and UN Environment Programme presented insights on topics such as endocrine disruptors, PFAS, hazardous substances in articles and the Polluter Pays Principle.

Furthermore, perspectives on a REACH revision, changes to REACH and the new Global Framework on Chemicals were presented, along with more concrete examples of actions taken by member states, such as the recent Belgian Royal Decree on banning the export of certain hazardous substances to non-EU countries.

 An ever-higher level of ambition
At EU level, the emergency to entirely fulfill the political engagements of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability was reiterated throughout discussions. On the other hand, the Global Framework on Chemicals adopted in 2023 opens a new path towards a safer and toxic-free environment and it is now crucial to ensure its effective implementation.
Emphasis was placed during the conference on the need to work together with determination and solidarity, knowing that only through clear perspectives and collective action can we build a better future. The necessity of safe innovation and reinforcement of measures to accelerate sustainable progress emerged as well from the expert panels.
As a final statement, a renewed sense of urgency is palpable: catalizing transformative actions for a world where chemicals not only cease to be considered as a threat but become drivers of progress and sustainable development.
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