A United Nations panel has agreed to create a legally binding global treaty to address plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, rivers and landscape.
The U.N. Environment Assembly voted unanimously Wednesday at its meeting in Kenya’s capital Nairobi for a resolution “to end plastic pollution.”
It sets the stage for international negotiations designed to produce a treaty by 2024.
“Today we wrote history. Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic,” said Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s minister for environment and climate and the assembly’s president. “With today’s resolution we are officially on track for a cure.”
After a week of debate, negotiators fashioned proposals — one by Peru and Rwanda and others by India and Japan — into a framework for a global approach to prevent and reduce plastic pollution, including marine litter.
The treaty would cover the full lifecycle of plastics, including production, design and disposal.
“It is not always you get such a major environment deal,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, told a news conference. Anderson called the endorsement by representatives of 175 member counties “the most significant global environmental governance decision since the Paris (Climate) Agreement in 2015.”
According to a recent Pew study, the global plastic industry is valued at $522.6 billion and 11 million metric tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year.
The environmental group Greenpeace said the U.N. panel’s decision is a “big, bold step to end plastic pollution.”
Graham Forbes, global plastics project lead at Greenpeace USA, said that until a strong global treaty is signed, the organization and its allies will keep pushing for a world free of plastic pollution with clean air and a stable climate.
“This is a big step that will keep the pressure on big oil and big brands to reduce their plastic footprint and switch their business models to refill and reuse,” Forbes said.
— By Wanjohi Kabukuru