UN agrees to end plastic pollution

ACT plastics ban

Australia has joined with other nations to adopt a legally binding agreement to address plastic pollution and stop it from entering our oceans.

More than 170 Heads of State and Ministers for the Environment from across the globe came together at the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, making a historic agreement to end plastic pollution.

“Australia has set the standard for how it deals with waste plastics, investing towards a circular economy and through our ban on the export of unprocessed waste plastic,” Environment Minister Sussan Ley said.

“Fourteen million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year, leaching harmful chemicals and breaking down into microplastics that are ingested by marine life.

“The move by member nations to adopt a legally binding agreement is the start of a global push to tackle this problem but we know there is more to do. Our oceans are part of our national identity and critical to the daily lives of millions of Australians – ensuring our shared oceans are clean and healthy is both a national and regional responsibility for Australia.”

The resolution, based on three initial draft resolutions from various nations, establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), which will begin its work in 2022, with the ambition of completing a draft global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024. It is expected to present a legally binding instrument, which would reflect diverse alternatives to address the full lifecycle of plastics, the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials, and the need for enhanced international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation.

“This is the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord. It is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it.” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

“The bottom line is we will eliminate plastic pollution from our environment,” she told the closing press conference. “The most difficult issues in the negotiations are likely to include goal-setting, how to measure progress, and financing. We will also need to bring the private sector into the room, because the private sector after all is the producer of plastics. And we will need to have a conversation about whether we should have a goal for reduced raw polymer in the production chain,” Andersen added.

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