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A Historic Resolution, End Plastic Pollution: Towards An International Legally Binding

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End Plastic Pollution: Towards An International Legally Binding

In 1907 when plastic was invented it was considered the best invention for humankind. But now after over a century, it has become the biggest threat to our environment and biodiversity. Plastic is becoming an adverse irritant because of unsustainable production and consumption patterns as well as inadequate waste management. A huge amount of plastic is entering our oceans. As per a recent report by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “From Pollution to Solution”, around 75-199 million tons of plastic are present in our oceans. According to the current scenario, the plastic waste entering aquatic ecosystems could triple from 9-14 million tons per year to 23-37 million tons per year by 2040. Microplastics are entering the food chain which is considered hazardous to human health, wildlife health, and the ecosystem as well. 

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global plastic production and accumulation and future trends corpseed

What is United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA)?

UNEA created in 2012 is World’s highest decision-making body for the issues associated with Environment. UNEA hosts biannual sessions to develop international environmental laws and set global environmental policies. During these biannual sessions the member states table resolutions and decisions on prevailing environmental issues. Recently UNEA 5.2 was held in Nairobi from 28th Feb – 2nd March 2022 where the historic resolution was adopted to end plastic pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024.

What is the need for an Internationally Binding Treaty?

Most of the plastic that is generated ends up in the oceans and after entering into oceans it moves around. So plastic generated in any part of the World after ending up in oceans becomes a global problem. It becomes very difficult to deal with this plastic as it is not within a single country’s jurisdiction and tackling this plastic problem by one country is next to impossible.

The most famous example is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is present in the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to California in the Eastand from Hawaii to Japan in the West. As per data, this garbage patch is three times the size of France.  It doesn’t lie in single state jurisdiction.

To deal with a problem that is affecting the whole world, an internationally binding legal treaty is necessary.

direct risks and impacts of marine litter and plastics corpseed

What are the regulations or legislation dealing with Plastic Pollution?

The Basel convention dealing with the Transboundary movement of hazardous waste and its disposal is the only global and legally binding instrument addressing plastic pollution as of now. This instrument commits the countries to manage plastic pollution in a better way. It also regulates the transboundary movement of plastic. A program called Partnership on Plastic Waste to prevent plastic pollution and encourage businesses and states to re-use plastic products was started in 2019 by the States as a part of the Basel Convention.  

The Clean Seas Platform of UNEP is the largest global coalition dedicated to end marine plastic pollution. This platform launched a project called “What’s in your bathroom”? This project spread awareness about the presence of microplastics in personal care products. 

What are the successful examples of International Binding Treaties?

The Montreal Protocol dealing with Substances that deplete the Ozone Layer is a landmark and most successful UN treaty. It was adopted in 1987 and till now it is the only UN treaty that has been ratified by every country on this planet. The Developed and Developing Nations have binding, time-targeted and measurable commitments. It has been a huge success. The Parties to the Protocol were successful in phasing out approximately 98% of ODS globally compared to 1990 levels. 

The Paris Agreement is another successful example of a legally binding international treaty that deals with climate change. It was adopted in December 2015 by 196 parties. It aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

Moving towards an International Binding Treaty to end Plastic Pollution

The UNEA in its recently held fifth session took the first step towards the creation of a landmark treaty to control plastic pollution worldwide by 2024. The resolution being endorsed by 175 nations is directed towards the full lifecycle of plastic, including production, design, and disposal.

An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) has been established by the resolution. This INC will start working from 2022 and would be responsible for drafting a global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024. By the end of 2022, UNEP would summon a forum for all the stakeholders in order to share their knowledge and the best practices from different parts of the world. Finally after the completion of INC’s work a conference will be held where the outcomes will be adopted and opened for signatures by the member parties. 

Along with negotiations over the internationally binding agreement the UNEP will be working with interested governments and businesses in shifting away from single-use plastic and moving towards a new circular economy.   

Conclusion:

The production of plastic is rising exponentially. Approximately 400 million tons of plastic is produced per year which is set to double by 2040. Almost 300 million tons of plastic waste are generated every year. Out of this waste, only 9% is recycled and the rest is accumulated in landfills and oceans posing threat to humans, animals, and the environment. The impacts of plastic pollution on the environment are catastrophic and disastrous. Dealing with plastic on a global scale is the need of the hour. Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said the agreement is the most important international multilateral environmental deal since the Paris climate accord.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not corpseed, and have not been evaluated by corpseed for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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Author
Suneeta Tikoo
Over 22 years of experience in IT compliances, Pollution Waste management & EPR compliances. Currently working in Corpseed as Operational Head.

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