‘Historic’ UN agreement on plastics underway

07 March, 2022

UN member states agree to develop a legally binding agreement to stop plastic emissions.

“We have made history today. You should all be proud,” says Espen Barth Eide, Norwegian Minister for Climate Change and the Environment and chairman of the UN Environment Association UNEA.

All 193 countries and areas represented in the UN will be bound by the agreement, which will now begin to be negotiated and be in place by 2024.

The goal is to get rid of all kinds of plastic litter. Not only water bottles and straws floating around the world’s oceans, but also microplastics.

Greece Hooked on Plastic
One of the many landfills containing the millions of tons of plastic that the UN has agreed to sign agreements to overcome. This one is in Greece. Photo: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP/TT

A crossroads

“We are at a historic crossroads where ambitious decisions taken today can prevent plastic pollution from leading to the collapse of our ecosystems. By developing a legally binding global plastics agreement, our world leaders are paving the way for a cleaner and better future for both humans and the planet”, says Gustaf Lind, Secretary General of the World Wide Fund for Nature WWF, in a press release.

There are no details on what the agreement should contain yet, only a framework. And the framework spans the entire life cycle of plastic products – from how they are produced to how they are handled when they are thrown away. Plastics are made, among other things, with the help of oil and gas.

Support for countries

Inger Näslund, senior marine expert at WWF, hails it as “one of the most ambitious measures for the environment” since the 1989 decision to phase out substances that depleted the ozone layer.

“It is a big step forward and comes after four years of campaigning by WWF and many others,” says Inger Näslund.

The agreement can contain both legally binding and free-roaming clauses and should come up with objectives on a global scale. Financial support for poorer countries, in order to help them achieve the goals, is also on the table.

kenya UN Plastics Convention
One of the many landfills containing the millions of tons of plastic that the UN has agreed to sign agreements to overcome. This one is in Greece. Photo: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP/TT

The production of plastic is increasing at a faster rate than any other material in the world. The countries that produce the most plastic are China and the United States.

Annual plastic consumption is expected to increase from around 300 million tonnes at present to 600 million tonnes by 2040.

Only ten percent of all plastic is recycled, the rest ends up in landfills or in the ocean. Eleven tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year. According to WWF, at this rate there may be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

Source: UN, WWF

Text: TT
Photo: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP/TT, Brian Inganga/AP/TT

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