February 23, 2022 at 15:00

Summoning the Lorax: Is it time for a global science-policy body for chemicals?

Anthropogenic chemicals are a ubiquitous part of our lives. From the clothes we wear, to the medicines we take, to the electronics we use on a daily basis, chemicals are all around us. The production and consumption of chemicals has increased dramatically in the past decades, with the total global production capacity of the chemical industry doubling between 2000 and 2017 (Persson et al., 2022). Recent research out of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, and other institutions suggests that humans are operating outside of the Earth’s “safe operating space” for anthropogenic chemicals and other “novel entities”, because the rate of new chemical production and emissions exceeds humanity’s ability to conduct safety assessments and monitoring of these novel entities. This raises an important question: what should we do about this international issue of chemicals and other anthropogenic materials?

A number of international science-policy bodies currently exist to address certain aspects of anthropogenic chemicals, such as the Stockholm Convention for persistent organic pollutants and the Minamata Convention for mercury. However, such existing science-policy bodies are limited in the scope of chemicals they address, and do not have the governing frameworks in place to conduct horizon scanning of emerging issues (Wang et al., 2021). The International Panel on Chemical Pollution (the IPCP) has therefore made a call, along with 1,900 scientists and practitioners from around the world, that an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Panel on Chemicals, Waste, and Pollution is needed to fill the gaps in current science-policy frameworks. But do we really need another science-policy body? Is this the best use of limited resources? What difference could such a new panel make?

This seminar brings together experts in the novel entities planetary boundary and international environmental policy to engage in a critical discussion of the question: Is it time for a global science-policy body for chemicals, waste, and pollution?

About the participants


Prof. Matthew MacLeod

Matthew MacLeod is Professor of Environmental Chemistry in the Department of Environmental Science at Stockholm University, Sweden, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (FRSC) and Associate Editor of the RSC journal Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts.  Professor MacLeod studies factors that control human and environmental exposure to pollutants using mathematical models to quantify exposure, and to design and interpret laboratory experiments and field studies. The goal of his research is to build a quantitative and process-level understanding of factors that determine exposure to environmental pollutants and microplastic, and to develop practical tools and guidance that support rational management strategies.  More information can be found on his webpage http://www.aces.su.se/staff/matthew-macleod/ and a publication list on Google Scholar http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=u6v91AgAAAAJ.

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Linn Persson

Linn Persson is Head of the International Department at the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) and affiliated researcher at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). Her research includes work on chemical pollution, chemicals management, international agreements and their implementation, chemical indicators, and planetary boundaries.

Keynote Speaker

Asst. Prof. Marlene Ågerstrand

Dr. Marlene Ågerstrand’s research focuses on understanding the science-policy interactions in risk assessment and management of chemicals. Aspects of interest include evaluation of data for use in decision-making, the efficiency of management options, and the role of experts in decision-making. Together with colleagues at Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet, she has developed the webtool SciRAP (www.scirap.org) which provides methods for the evaluation of toxicity and ecotoxicity studies for use in hazard and risk assessment of chemicals. Ågerstrand is a board member of IPCP (www.ipcp.ch).

Twitter: @m_agerstrand

Keynote Speaker

Assoc. Prof. Henrik Selin

Henrik Selin is Associate Dean for Studies and Associate Professor in the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University. His interdisciplinary research contributes to scholarly and policy debates about understanding ways in which states and other actors engage each other and shape international environmental policy-making and institution-building. It also focuses on efforts to analyze and advance sustainability on a human-dominated planet. He is the author of several books, including Global Governance of Hazardous Chemicals: Challenges of Multilevel Management (MIT Press) and Mercury Stories: Understanding Sustainability through a Volatile Element (MIT Press, with Noelle Eckley Selin). He is the author and co-author of over fifty journal articles and book chapters, including a co-author of the 2021 Science Policy Forum article advocating for the establishment of a global science-policy body on chemicals and waste. He is incoming Editor for the journal Global Environmental Politics (having served as Associate Editor for the past five years). More information about research and publications is available on his website: http://blogs.bu.edu/selin.


Persson, L., Almroth, B.M.C., Collins, C.D., Cornell, S., Wit, C.A. De, Diamond, M.L., Fantke, P., Hassell, M., Macleod, M., Ryberg, M.W., Jørgensen, P.S., Villarrubia-g, P., Wang, Z., Hauschild, M.Z., 2022. Outside the Safe Operating Space of the Planetary Boundary for Novel Entities. Environ. Sci. Technol. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.1c04158.

Wang, Z., Altenburger, R., Backhaus, T., Covaci, A., Diamond, M.L., Grimalt, J.O., Lohmann, R., Schäffer, A., Scheringer, M., Selin, H., Soehl, A., Suzuki, N., 2021. We need a global science-policy body on chemicals and waste. Science (80-. ). 371, 774–776. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abe9090. Full text: https://www.science.org/stoken/author-tokens/ST-38/full