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Summing up the Summit 2023: Chemical Pollution and One Health

Rob Watt, moderator at UHS 2023

Robert Watt, Engagement Director at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), moderator at Uppsala Health Summit 2023

At the Uppsala Health Summit 2023, we learned that the triple crisis is a reality, we have enough knowledge to make a change, it is time to act now, and we need a strategy to reduce chemical pollution. The moderator for this year’s summit, Robert Watt, Engagement Director at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), provides us with a concluding summary of his key take-aways from the summit.

"The triple crisis is a reality"

One of the things I particularly picked up over the course of the last couple of days is that the planetary triple crisis: climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss is a reality and our knowledge of the impacts on human, environmental and animal health is sufficient to make ignorance or indifference inexcusable”, says Robert Watt.

It is time to act

We know enough about what is causing impacts to take action now. We know the scale of the problem, we know who’s responsible, and even the knowledge gaps are visible, but things are happening too slowly. Mr. Baskut Tuncak reminded us that it was 1972 when we first started talking about a healthy environment and how that was a critical part of Human Rights, and it was only 50 years later that the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the right to a safe and healthy environment. So, setting up governance does take time and it does require persistence but we do need to get it out there that pollution and impacts are accumulating and that chemical developments are running ahead of our regulatory capacity”, says Robert Watt.

Dr Baskut Tuncak

Watch the plenary presentation by Dr. Baskut Tuncak, JD, Director of the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute, University of Massachusetts, and Former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Hazardous Waste.

Robert Watt informed us about the four principles that we've learned from the Summit that we can turn to and hold fast to;

  1. Precautionary principle
  2. The polluter pays principle
  3. Reduce and remove as a principle, and
  4. Sufficiency

We need a chemical pollution strategy

Lastly, I want to round off by linking back to our very first speaker, Dr. Leonardo Trasande, who talked about the importance of having a strategy. We do need a strategy that addresses the question of when, that seeks to use windows of opportunity, and we know that next year in the European context that’s a critical window of opportunity but we also need it to set a long-term agenda. We need to have a strategy that addresses who builds coalitions and identifies specific targets for our engagement. Lastly, to have a strategy about what, have focus and be realistic and harness, if you like, the forces; financial, political, that are already in play, and make sure that we’re identifying solutions that scale”, says Robert Watt.

View the plenary presentation by Dr. Leonardo Trasande, Jim G. Hendrick MD Professor, Director of the Division of Environmental Pediatrics, and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Pediatrics, NYU School of Medicine.

Dr. Leo Trasande in plenary at Uppsala Health Summit 2023

Watch the closing plenary discussion at Uppsala Health Summit 2023:

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