Invited Speaker Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Australasia 2021

Europe’s long-term vision for a safe and sustainable chemicals policy: SETAC Europe’s contribution (#15)

Annegaaike Leopold 1
  1. Calidris Environment BV, Warnsveld, THE NETHERLANDS, Netherlands

Calidris environment bv

Adjunct Professor at Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability

University of British Columbia, Canada


In December 2019, the European Commission (COM) announced their political vision for sustainability the “European Green Deal” (European Commission 2019). As part of this vision, the COM called for “a zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment”.  In October 2020, this aspect was further elaborated in the COM’s “Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability Towards a Toxic-Free Environment” (the “CSS”, as it is now commonly known). On the 14th of July of this year, the European Commission adopted a set of proposals that will transform the EU economy and society to meet the Paris climate ambitions. These proposals will make to make the EU's climate, energy, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. If these emission reductions are indeed achieved in the next decade, Europe will become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, thereby making the European Green Deal a reality.

In April 2021 SETAC Europe was selected to take one of the 34 seats at the European Commission High Level Roundtable on the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability. This group’s main purpose is to:

  • support the Commission to achieve the objectives of the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability;
  • monitor progress of the Strategy’s implementation
  • support the transition to safe and sustainable chemicals and to a toxic-free environment.

The CSS is a fundamental policy for SETAC Europe (SE) members and the work that SETAC underpins. Our involvement in this initiative aligns perfectly with our mission and with SE’s Strategic Planning (2018-2020 and 2021-2023) that places emphasis on increasing the use and the utility of science for policy, supporting open science and enhancing scientific research quality. and was successful in doing so. I was selected to represent SETAC Europe at this Round Table, and I am supported by a sounding board of 6 people from the three sectors of SETAC’s membership and 2 ex-officio members. In this talk, which I will give in a personal capacity, I will lay out the essential elements in the CSS as I see them; the key areas of controversy and the key challenges that I see lying ahead for the SE representative and the sounding board to help safeguard that decisions taken for the implementation of the CSS are always justified against the background of the latest and most robust scientific evidence.