Representatives of 175 nations have committed to develop a legally binding agreement to beat plastic pollution, hailed as the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord on climate
- 175 nations have reached historic deal to tackle global plastic pollution
- The aim is to complete a draft global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024
- Moving to a circular economy may slash the volume of plastics entering the world’s oceans by over 80% by 2040, according to the UN
- The recycling of plastic waste is attracting growing interest from impact investors
The United Nations have agreed on a historic deal to create the world’s first global plastic pollution treaty, calling it the “the most significant environmental multilateral deal” since the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Representatives from 175 nations endorsed a landmark resolution at the UN Environment Assembly last week in Nairobi. The resolution, titled “End Plastic Pollution” aims to put a stop to plastic pollution and finalise such a treaty by 2024. The resolution addresses the full lifecycle of plastic, including its production, design and disposal.
“Today marks a triumph by planet Earth over single-use plastics,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) on 4 March. He described the agreement as “an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it”.
Plastic production has skyrocketed to 348 million tonnes in 2017 from 2 million in 1950, according to the UN. The plastics industry is estimated to be worth $522.6 billion, and is forecast to double in capacity by 2040.
“Today marks a triumph by planet Earth over single-use plastics.”Inger Andersen, UN Environmental Programme
The resolution has created an intergovernmental negotiating committee, which starts this year. It aims to complete a draft global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024.
“The resolution will clearly take us towards a future with no plastic pollution, including in the marine environment,” said Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, Japan’s Environment Minister, whose draft text contributed to the final resolution. “United, we can make it happen. Together, let us go forward as we start the negotiations towards a better future with no plastic pollution.”
The exponential growth of the plastics industry has come at a huge environmental cost, with some 11 million tonnes of plastic waste being dumped into the world’s oceans each year, threatening over 800 marine and coastal species.
Exposure to plastics can also endanger human health, while greenhouse gas emissions linked to plastic production may account for 15% of allowed emissions by 2050.
Moving to a circular economy may slash the volume of plastics entering the world’s oceans by over 80% by 2040, according to the UN
“We appreciate the support received from the various countries during this negotiation process,” said Modesto Montoya, Peru’s Minister of Environment, whose written draft, proposed with the Government of Rwanda, contributed to the final resolution. “Peru will promote a new agreement that prevents and reduces plastic pollution, promotes a circular economy and addresses the full life cycle of plastics.”
Moving to a circular economy may slash the volume of plastics entering the world’s oceans by over 80% by 2040, according to the UN. It would also cut virgin plastic production by 55%, save governments $70 billion by 2040 and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25%. And finally, a circular economy would create 700,000 additional jobs, predominantly in the southern hemisphere.
Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Rwanda’s Minister of Environment, said the world “has come together to act against plastic pollution – a serious threat to our planet. International partnerships will be crucial in tackling a problem that affects all of us”.
D’Arc Mujawamariya added she was “optimistic about the opportunity to create a legally binding treaty as a framework for national ambition-setting, monitoring, investment, and knowledge transfer to end plastic pollution”.
Still, the US, the world’s biggest single-use plastic polluter per capita, did not say whether it is willing to curb plastics production, according to the Reuters news agency.
Plastic pollution, and the recycling of plastic waste, is attracting growing interest from the impact investment community. Last month, Dutch impact investor Infinity Recycling announced the first close of a fund aimed at tackling the plastic waste crisis.
Investors including US petrochemical companies Chevron Phillips Chemical and LyondellBasell, Singapore-based global materials organisation Indorama, and Dutch investment agency Invest-NL committed over €40 million to the Circular Plastics Fund, as reported by Impact Investor.