Sight Magazine – Essay: Four reasons to be optimistic about the future global plastics treaty

A historic resolution endorsed by 175 states launched negotiations for a first global treaty to end plastic pollution, which is expected to be finalized before the end of 2024.

The basis for such an agreement was made possible by growing public support for action, as well as reducing the opposition of the chemical and other industries. On top of that, there is growing scientific evidence of the buildup of plastic pollution in the soilin food and in the ocean.

A delegate poses for a photo near a nine-meter-tall monument dubbed “turn off the plastic tap” by Canadian activist and artist Benjamin von Wong, made from plastic waste, at the venue for the fifth session of the Environment Assembly, at the United Nations Environment Program Headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya, on February 28. PHOTO: Reuters/Monicah Mwangi/File photo.

What will the treaty do then? Many experts have, like mesupported a plastics treaty that follows a process similar to the 1987 Montreal Protocol which eliminated ozone-eating chemicals. In this case, a treaty would ban certain types of plastic, like single-use ones, or different uses of plastic like disposable packaging, and countries would meet regularly to update that list and agree on a date when each ban would come into effect.

However, this is not what the resolution proposes. Instead, he envisions a treaty similar to the Paris Agreement 2015 on climate change, which deals with greenhouse gas emissions. It sets baseline goals and allows states to define their own plans to prevent, reduce and eliminate plastic pollution.

“[I]If negotiating states follow the resolution’s guidance, the eventual treaty will likely be more specific in the obligations it places on states to reduce plastic pollution than the vaguely worded Paris agreement does for greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse effect.

Lobbying by the petrochemical industry and others could water down these national action plans. Whereas if the plastics treaty followed the model provided by the Montreal Protocol, states would have to demonstrate that they had stopped producing or using certain plastics.

That said, if negotiating states follow the directions of the resolution, the eventual treaty will likely be more specific in the obligations it places on states to reduce plastic pollution than the vaguely worded Paris agreement does for states. greenhouse gas emissions. Here are four reasons why this inspires optimism.

1. Clear objectives and standards
The resolution sets a clear goal for the treaty: to prevent, reduce and eliminate plastic pollution. That’s much harder to obscure than the Paris Agreement’s goal of ensuring the global average temperature doesn’t rise two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The resolution also calls on states to adopt sound waste management practices. This is a question that has proven difficult for all countries. Great Britain exports waste be dumped in overseas landfills which should be recycled.

It is helpful to name the processes that states need to address, as it is easier to track their progress when everyone is asked to do the same. It is more difficult under the Paris Agreement to compare, for example, emission reductions due to changes in public transport systems in one country with those due to changes in the energy efficiency of appliances in another .

2. Life cycles of plastic products
The resolution requires states to regulate plastic at every stage of a product’s life cycle. This is much more advanced than the approach taken in the Paris Agreement, which makes no mention of products or processes that create greenhouse gas emissions (such as fossil fuels) and leaves states free to determine how they reduce their emissions.

As part of the plastics resolution, states will pass regulations requiring manufacturers to design plastic products that can be reused, remade, or recycled. States will also have to plan for what will happen to products once consumers no longer want or need to use them. Products produced in the future, such as mobile phones and laptops, should be designed in such a way that they can be repaired more easily.

The focus on designing plastic products to be reused or recycled means that the future agreement will likely also include a commitment to phase out plastic single-use items wherever possible. There is no equivalent provision in the Paris Agreement.

3. Existing plastic pollution
No existing treaty is designed to clean up pollution. Instead, they tend to focus on controlling future emissions. Yet this resolution suggests that states cooperate to remove plastic from the ocean. They can do this by taking action in their territorial waters or by choosing to create an international body that can oversee the disposal of plastics.

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4. Knowledge
Given the ubiquity of plastic products and pollution, no single industry can solve the problem alone. The resolution calls on a range of people and organizations to help prevent plastic buildup in the environment, including the scientific community, traditional and indigenous knowledge holders, and industry experts.

The Paris agreement includes a similar demand regarding adaptation to climate change. But the resolution for a plastics treaty goes further by asking people to help alleviate the problem with policy suggestions relevant to each stage of a plastic product’s life cycle.

Indigenous scientists and scholars can, for example, inform treaty negotiators of the extent of plastic pollution in ecosystems and help identify product design principles. Industries can report on the challenges of producing new plastics and ensuring they can be reused, while local government officials can suggest how the challenges preventing people from recycling them can be overcome.

Will the treaty be a success?
It is difficult to say whether the treaty will lead to a substantial reduction in plastic pollution. But the resolution’s deference to national leadership must not undermine the treaty’s success. Unlike the Paris agreement, the resolution contains more proposals that could support the implementation of a global agreement.

The speed with which the international community has recognized this problem is encouraging. There is a lot to do, but the resolution is a step in the right direction.The conversation

Elizabeth Kirk is a professor of international environmental law at Lincoln University. This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

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