On 5 November I joined a panel of experts at the Chemical Watch conference in Washington, DC, for a session looking at the future of chemicals regulation in Europe. Christel Musset, Director of Hazard Assessment at the European Chemicals Agency, set out ECHA's future plans and focus. Christel talked about the EU Green Deal and the role of sustainable chemistry in achieving a zero pollution, circular, and zero carbon, economy for Europe. It is clear that there is a lot of work to do, but it is also clear that ECHA relishes the challenge. It was then my turn to talk about the UK. I explained the current position around Brexit, the impact on chemicals regulation, and the huge effort that will be required from the Health & Safety Executive (the 'UK chemicals agency' under UK REACH) just to get the UK up to speed. Our 'UK Chemicals Strategy', originally promised in 2019, is delayed, for obvious reasons given the current uncertainty on Brexit. I talked about the need for the HSE to recruit significant numbers of experts just to do the 'basic' job the ECHA does. Where is the bandwidth for the UK to embark on the ambitious agenda outlined by Christel? How do we ensure that the UK chemicals industry, with our capacity for invention and innovation, is at the forefront of green chemistry to help solve the great problems of our times? And where is the political will to pursue that agenda, and to resource the UK agency with the tools to achieve it?
Let's hope that the UK's chemicals strategy, when it does land, is worth the wait.