In January 2020, the European Commission’s new work programme included a priority under the European Green Deal – its intention to launch a chemicals strategy for sustainability. On 27 May 2020, the European Commission published an adjusted work programme, in which a number of initiatives announced under the European Green Deal were postponed. The presentation of the Chemicals strategy for sustainability, however, is still foreseen for the third quarter of 2020.

The Strategy will build on recent policy evaluations and initiatives associated with the EU chemicals legislation – in particular the second REACH Review, the Fitness Check of the most relevant chemicals legislation (excluding REACH) and the Communication on options to address the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation. The COVID-19 pandemic crisis increases the urgency to step up action in the chemicals area to support the socio-economic recovery of the European industry producing and using chemicals, as well as promote the EU’s strategic autonomy for those chemicals essential to society and health.

Advanced lead batteries – with raw materials sourced in Europe, manufactured in Europe and recycled in Europe – support everything from cars and trucks to data centres, mobile phone networks and hospital back-up power. Without them, many essential services would fail to function – the pandemic has therefore forced policymakers to adjust their thinking on securing raw materials and the shoring-up of European supply chains to reduce the bloc’s reliance on uncertain external factors. The complex array of raw material chemicals required should also, therefore, be subject to a re-thinking in regulatory approach.

So far, REACH Candidate Listing as a precursor to REACH Authorisation – a process designed to ban the use of certain chemicals in Europe – has been the instrument by which many of the substances necessary to produce rechargeable batteries have been regulated. However, a coalition of more than 60 organisations aimed at streamlining chemicals management, formed as a Cross-Industry Initiative (CII), is calling on the EU to invoke better regulation principles that will support access to battery raw materials. The organisations represented by the CII believe that REACH Authorisation should not be used when potential risks from a substance are limited to the workplace. Instead, these risks can be better addressed by effective workplace-specific legislation such as occupational exposure limits – without critically damaging EU value chains.

Which is why the CII are calling for a new intelligent approach to regulating chemicals used in battery production. In a policy statement issued in May, the CII called for the Commission to develop better guidance for the Risk Management Option Analysis (RMOA) process. RMOA is the tool used to determine whether REACH Candidate Listing, Authorisation or Restriction should be used in preference to other legislative actions such as EU-wide workplace exposure limits. The CII argues that proper use of RMOA is critical to achieving a sustainable economic recovery by supporting the concept of a ‘one substance – one assessment’ process, clarifying the interface between the REACH and OSH legislation and helping improve the prioritisation of the most appropriate chemical risk management measures.

The CII‘s call for tailor-made and targeted use of REACH Authorisation is for a proportionate approach to chemical regulation, feedback which has since been submitted to the Commission’s roadmap towards the strategy. 

ILA’s Regulatory Affairs Director, Dr Steve Binks says: “Ultimately the CII‘s call would continue to ensure that the environment and consumers are protected but would also help ensure Europe remains a centre of excellence for the manufacturing of products in demand. As the market for reliable rechargeable battery energy storage continues to soar, it would therefore be folly to attempt to ban the use of the very substances vital to their production.”

Visit the ILA blog to read more on how the EU needs to implement intelligent chemical policy rules to generate a sustainable economic bounce-back.