The United Nations on Wednesday adopted a treaty to fight plastic pollution around the world. This is a “historic” decision to fight a scourge that threatens the environment and contributes to the collapse of biodiversity.
The UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) met on Wednesday 2 March in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to adopt a motion creating an “intergovernmental negotiating committee”. This committee will be tasked with developing a “legally binding” text by 2024.
Every year, hundreds of millions of tonnes of waste are degraded into micro-plastics. This waste is then found in all the world’s oceans, in the ice pack, sometimes in the stomachs of animals and even in the air taken from mountain tops.
In order to remedy this, the negotiating mandate from 2022 to 2024 will take into account several points. These include “the entire life cycle of plastic”, as called for by environmental activists. It will address the issue of ”sustainable” production and use, waste management and reuse or recycling.
Similarly, the Commission covers land and marine pollution caused by these products made from fossil hydrocarbons. According to the OECD, these products are responsible for almost 3.5% of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
Negotiations will also need to focus on setting targets and defining measures that can be “binding” or “voluntary” at the global level. The treaty may also provide for national control plans, while taking into account the specific “circumstances” of individual countries. The mandate includes developing control mechanisms and funding for poor countries and working with the private sector in a multi-billion dollar industry.
Work is due to start in the second half of 2022 with the aim of completing the project in 2024.
The adoption of the principle of a treaty against plastics is good news for the African continent.
Africa is the continent at the forefront of the war on plastic. On this continent, 34 out of 54 countries have adopted regulations to phase out single-use plastic packaging. But despite this commitment by governments, many urban areas still have plastic waste clogging up waterways, causing flooding and destruction. Many people in Africa are affected by the environmental injustice caused by plastic pollution. The adoption of the principle of this treaty by the UN is therefore good news for Africa.
Furthermore, as plastic pollution is a transboundary problem requiring a global solution, it was important to move towards this binding global response where the concerns of African populations for environmental protection are paramount.