Life Science Environment UN hails progress on global plastic pollution treaty

UN hails progress on global plastic pollution treaty

The UN says a global treaty addressing the whole lifecycle of plastic could be finalised by 2024. Photo: EPA
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The United Nations is set to approve a plan to create the world’s first ever global plastic pollution treaty, describing it as the most significant green deal since the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Member states have held talks for more than a week in Nairobi to agree the outline of a pact to rein in plastic pollution, an environmental crisis that extends from ocean trenches to mountain tops.

Government officials will later today approve a resolution that lays out the broad terms for a treaty that should be finalised by the end of 2024, said Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program.

“This is a historic moment,” Ms Andersen told delegates in Nairobi, warning that the success of any agreement would depend on the final terms that are still to be negotiated.

“As we embark on this journey, let us be clear that the agreement will only truly count if it has clear provisions that are legally binding.”

Any treaty that puts restrictions on plastic production, use or design would impact oil and chemicals companies that make raw plastic, as well as consumer goods giants that sell thousands of products in single-use packaging.

Reuters reported on Monday that a draft resolution stated that the plastic treaty would be both legally binding and address the “full lifecycle of plastic”, which could cover production and packaging design, as well as waste.

However, the terms in the draft resolution are broad and a UN intergovernmental negotiating committee will now have to contend with countries and business interests that will interpret those words to their advantage, delegates said.

Switzerland’s ambassador for the environment Franz Perrez hinted at the divisions between countries during some 90 hours of late-night negotiations over the past week.

“This is a division between those who are ambitious and want to find a solution and those who don’t want to find a solution for whatever reasons,” he told a news conference in Nairobi on Tuesday.

“We have to overcome together the concerns of those who are not yet ready to make these ambitious steps that we would like to make together.”