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Hopes rising for historic treaty to curb plastic pollution dashed amid disagreements

Plastic pollution in freshwater habitats – lakes & rivers – is detrimental to health and survival of the local biodiversity. PHOTO/FILE


Negotiations to craft a treaty to end global plastic pollution ended on Sunday after disagreements marred talks in Nairobi, Kenya, where delegates failed to reach a consensus on how to advance a draft of the treaty.

According to AP, environmental advocates criticized the outcome of the weeklong United Nations-led meeting on plastic pollution, saying oil-producing countries successfully employed stalling tactics designed to weaken the treaty.

However, the head of the UN-backed secretariat steering international negotiations towards a binding agreement to end the plastic scourge said the world needs a “strong, ambitious and just” treaty to cut down on the mass-produced plastics which are helping fuel the climate crisis.

“We need a strong, ambitious and just plastic treaty, but that is only the first step,” says Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, Executive Secretary of the Secretariat, which came into being through a resolution in the UN Environment Assembly. 

Ms Mathur-Filipp told UN News that it’s time for everyone with a stake in the treaty to start looking at how it can be implemented – a process she believes, can begin even before the treaty is fully adopted and enters into force.

Delegates were expected to discuss a draft published in September that represented the views from the first two meetings. The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for Plastics is mandated with creating the first international, legally binding treaty on plastic pollution in five rounds of negotiations.

Member states decided to move forward with a revision of the draft, which has become longer during this third round of negotiations and will be even more difficult to advance, participants said. States also failed to reach a consensus on intersessional work to discuss crucial parts of the draft to be done ahead of the fourth round of negotiations.

On the sixth day of the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) to develop an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, delegates engaged in discussions on revised sections of the Zero Draft text of the ILBI and Synthesis Report, considering the way forward.

The negotiations process is at its midpoint now. And for the first time, a text of the future treaty is being discussed by the Member States in its ‘zero draft’. The negotiators’ ambition is to have the final text ready by the end of next year and open for signing soon after. 

Ms. Mathur-Filipp, detailed progress so far saying that the momentum is there, and explained why tackling plastic pollution is so vital to protect human health and the environment.

“We produce around 430 million tonnes of plastic a year, two thirds of which are short-lived plastics, which soon become waste. Plastic pollution can have devastating impacts on our ecosystems and wildlife, our health and well-being, and the global economy,” she said.

The packaging sector is the world’s largest generator of single use plastic waste. Approximately 36 percent of all plastic produced is for packaging. This includes single use food and beverage containers, 85 percent of which ends up in landfills or as hazardous waste.

Ninety eight per cent of single use plastic products are produced from fossil fuels or virgin feedstock.


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