Biedenkopf, Katja (2009) Global REACH?: The Potential International Impact of EU Chemicals Regulation. In: UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)
The central question of this paper is: Could the new EU chemicals regulation REACH play a role in international chemicals governance – and if so, how? The REACH Regulation is one of the largest and most controversial pieces of legislation that the EU has ever adopted. It introduces a comprehensive and ambitious system for chemicals management, which moves away from a hazard-based approach toward a more risk-based approach. Furthermore, REACH introduces increased responsibilities for private actors and aims at encouraging more innovation. These new EU rules for the management of chemical substances are more comprehensive and more ambitious than current efforts at the international level. Therefore, this paper argues that there could be a mutual supplementation of international chemicals initiatives and REACH. On the one hand, REACH could complement international activities through the diffusion of its ambitious requirements and the data that it will produce. Diffusion could potentially happen faster than the international negotiation procedures and create facts that facilitate consensus finding for ensuing international agreement. Policy diffusion could also potentially reach a very broad scope of countries, including jurisdictions that are not part of current international agreements. On the other hand, international organisations could foster and enhance the diffusion process and institutionalise some of the REACH provisions. Furthermore, international agreements play an important role in taking particular account of the situation of developing countries and in providing a certain ‘baseline’ degree of safe international chemicals management. This paper first introduces the main features of the REACH Regulation. Then, it describes the international system of chemicals governance before discussing the contribution that REACH could make to this system. In the subsequent section, the different ways in which REACH requirements could diffuse to other jurisdictions and benefit international governance are analysed. These conceptual considerations are then applied to the US and California in a brief discussion of first signs of the potential influence of REACH. Since the REACH Regulation only entered into force on 1 June 2007 and will only be fully implemented by 2016, the full international impact of REACH will only become clear at a future point in time.
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