This afternoon the European Commission published its work plan for 2024, and this document failed to mention the reform of Europe’s main law on chemicals used in everyday products, REACH. The reform of REACH is a key component of the EU’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS), published three years ago on 14th October 2020, which was described as a “new long-term vision for the EU’s chemical policy“.
Commissioner Šefcovic confirmed this afternoon, to the European Parliament, that work on the REACH revision is continuing.
While CHEM Trust accepts that there has been important progress in several areas of the strategy, the revision of REACH seems to be getting ever-more ‘long term‘. We know that the Commission has thousands of pages of analysis of the problems with the current REACH, and that officials from the industry and environment directorates have made significant progress in drafting a proposal to revise the legal text. Our understanding is that progress was derailed by high level interventions from German conservatives and industries directed at the Commission’s President, Ursula von der Leyen, in order to disrupt the implementation of the European Green Deal.
Important progress that has been made on the CSS includes:
- Agreement on new hazard classes for endocrine disruptors and persistent and mobile chemicals in the EU law on classification of chemicals (CLP).
- Progress on an important and wide-ranging restriction on a large number of PFAS ‘forever chemicals’.
- A proposal to stop the use of endocrine disrupting chemicals in toys; this is currently being discussed by the European Parliament and Member States.
- A Restrictions Roadmap laying out chemicals which should have their use controlled. However, there has been insufficient progress in executing this roadmap, for example restricting the use of bisphenols and brominated flame retardants.
It’s worth noting that the original REACH proposal was published almost exactly 20 years ago, on 29th October 2003. The previous Commission and the current one have commissioned extensive reviews of the effectiveness of REACH, as well as done numerous consultations and a detailed impact assessment as part of the current revision process.
Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust, said:
“CHEM Trust is very disappointed that this Commission is failing to publish a revised REACH, despite thousands of pages of analysis from this and the previous Commission showing that people and wildlife are not protected by the current rules. We also know that officials have done huge amounts of work on the revised proposals – the outcome of this should be published and then the Parliament and Council can work together to finalise the proposal.”
Stefan Scheuer, CHEM Trust’s Chief EU Policy Advocate, said:
“We regret that the REACH revision has fallen victim to electioneering. The delay is bad for the environment, bad for people and bad for business. The EU’s chemical strategy for sustainability is long-term and we believe that its objective to ban the most harmful chemicals from everyday products can still be reached by 2030.”
CHEM Trust will continue to advocate for the rapid publication of the REACH revision proposal, as well as working to move forward the broader Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.
Some related blogs:
- A move to safer chemicals? Ten years of the EU’s REACH chemicals regulation, June 29th 2017
- European Commission launches ‘European Green Deal’, stepping up action on chemicals, December 11th 2019
- CHEM Trust welcomes the European Commission’s new Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, October 14th 2020
- The EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability – one year on, October 7th 2021