Major breakthrough as on plastic pollution global treaty

Green light given for global treaty on plastic pollution Source: Pixabay

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has announced that nearly 200 countries have agreed to start negotiations on a global treaty to tackle plastic pollution. The move is described as possibly the most ambitious environmental project since the 1989 Montreal Protocol, which phased out ozone-depleting substances.

The agreement will see UN members tasked with actively reducing plastic, to deal with the ongoing problem of discarded plastic that is destroying habitats, harming wildlife and contaminating the food chain.

Prof Steve Fletcher of the University of Portsmouth who advises the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on plastics issues, said: “One country can’t deal with plastic pollution alone, no matter how good its policies are.

“We need a global agreement to enable us to deal with the widespread challenges that plastic gives us as a society.”

The global treaty if agreed, would set rules for production, use and disposal of plastics.

Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Environment Minister for Rwanda, which has been at the forefront of the proposals, said they were optimistic the negotiations would put in place a framework “to end plastic pollution”.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has welcomed what they say is one of the most ambitious environmental project in modern times, with Senior Policy Advisor, Paula Chin saying that addressing the full lifecycle of plastic products, production and use, as well as disposal, is key to turning off “the plastic tap.

“The next step is to make sure all signatories are ready to deliver on the promise of this ground-breaking agreement.”

Prof Fletcher said: “There is debate about who pays and how do we make sure that countries in the global south have got the resources to deal with the plastic pollution crisis that they face.”

Lord Zac Goldsmith, Government Minister for International Environment said: “In the space of just one human lifetime, we have caused unimaginable damage to the global environment, choking every single part of the global ocean with plastic pollution.

“And although there is much to be done now to turn it into an ambitious and far-reaching treaty, we can now begin to close this ugly chapter.”

The announcement has been widely welcomed by environmental groups with world leaders have given the group until 2024 to agree the plastic pollution treaty, including which elements will be legally binding and how the deal will be financed.

Environmental groups are calling for clear and strong global standards that incentivise nations to stick to common rules and regulations over plastics, while penalising harmful products and practices. However they warn that many countries will need help dealing with plastic problems.

Facts on plastic pollution:

  • Estimates are that there around five trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans
  • 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced annually
  • 40% of all plastic is single-use
  • Around eight million tonnes of plastic is flushed into the oceans annually
  • Not all plastic can be recycled,
  • Animals on land or at sea can be harmed by plastic, which they either mistake for food or get trapped.

A global treaty on plastic pollution is a big ask, but the world needs one if we are to save the food chain and our oceans.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]