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3rd Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on a Science-Policy Panel to Contribute Further to the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste and to Prevent Pollution

17–21 June 2024 | Geneva, Switzerland

UN Environment Assembly – UNEA Science-Policy Panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution

It is crunch time for negotiators working to establish a new science-policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and the prevention of pollution. This is the final scheduled meeting of the group and considerable work remains to finalize the recommendations that will be submitted to the UN Environmental Assembly.

Many view this new panel as filling an essential need to inform policymakers on chemical and waste pollution. There are science-policy panels for climate change and biodiversity. But nothing on chemicals and waste. In many ways, this is a unique policy area, with several multilateral agreements and considerable uncertainty on the extent, risks and management options for chemicals and waste pollution. There is a clear need for the panel. The current question before negotiators is how to design it.

The Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) will aim to finalize and agree to the “foundational document” for the panel. In essence, this document sets out how the panel will operate, including its procedures, institutional arrangements, and substantive scope. Delegates still need to decide the panel’s name.

Two issues may attract considerable attention. First is the process for determining the work programme. This includes a draft prioritization mechanism that could help the panel determine which issues to focus on, given the available resources.

The second is the conflict-of-interest procedure. The Secretariat prepared a draft conflict-of-interest form for Member States’ consideration. The chemical industry holds considerable information, and industry experts could be asked to serve on the panel. However, others note that science-policy panels do not consider raw data and suggest that this could compromise the legitimacy of the panel as an impartial group of experts. Negotiators may have to carefully thread the needle on this as well as other design challenges to finalize their recommendations.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) writers for this meeting are Jennifer Allan, Ph.D.; Anna Dubrova; Moritz Petersmann; and Asterios Tsioumanis, Ph.D. The Digital Editor is Mike Muzurakis. The Editor is Pam Chasek, Ph.D.

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