5 March 2021
increasing support among the member states of the United Nations for an
international plastic treaty. This emerged from the recent meeting of the
United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the world’s highest decision-making
body on the environment. Member states issued statements and took positions
during the panel discussions.
much agreement on the premise that the plastic soup is an environmental problem
that can only be tackled internationally. The current approach is too
fragmented, too discretional and, above all, ineffective.
environmental ministers come together once every couple of years. The fifth
meeting was divided into two meetings. The decision must be taken at UNEA 5.2
whether there will be a special international treaty to deal with plastic
5.1 meeting – online because of Covid-19 – revolved around three environmental
crises. Apart from waste and pollution, these were climate change and
At least 40
countries, including the 27 European Union countries and Russia, expressed
their support for an international plastic treaty.
of the Netherlands, minister Van Veldhoven made a plea for the Plastic Pact,
which would be a good means to address plastic pollution at international
level. The big difference between an international plastic treaty and a Plastic
Pact, however, is that the treaty entails obligations while the Plastic Pact is
agreed voluntarily. There are no sanctions if the targets are not achieved.
BIGGEST POLLUTERS SUPPORT A TREATY
At the side
meetings, even the biggest polluters per capita – the United States and the
United Kingdom – expressed their support for an international plastic treaty.
The United States in particular reinstated its international role under
President Biden. A representative referred to recently passed legislation ‘with
legal provision for negotiations for a new international treaty about plastic
pollution in the sea’.
Read a summary about the growing support of the member states.
UNEA 5.2 will be held in February 2022 where an international agreement will be further discussed. The behind the scenes discussions that will be held over the next year will determine whether a vote can take place or not. There is a strong chance that it will come to a vote, especially because multinationals expressed their support in a manifesto last year that stated ‘We urge the member states of the United Nations to urgently commence negotiations on a treaty on plastic pollution’.
international treaty is not discretionary. The areas that will be subject to
legal obligations include:
- reduction in the production and consumption of plastic
- reduction in the usage of and exposure to toxic chemicals
- avoidance of false solutions
- investing in reuse, refill logistics, zero waste cities.
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