UN Plastic Deal
Cabinet secretary of environment of Kenya Keriako Tobiko, UNEP executive director Inger Andersen, and UNEA president Espen Barth Eide at the passing of the resolution to End Plastic Pollution. Image: UNEP/Cyril Villemain

World leaders from 175 nations have come together in Nairobi, Kenya to endorse a historic resolution to End Plastic Pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024. 

In what has been described as the most important green deal since the Paris Accord and a “critical moment” towards the first ever global treaty to combat plastic waste, the resolution based on three draft resolutions from various nations establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) which aims to complete a draft global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024. 

At the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) on 2 March, heads of state, ministers of environment and other representatives agreed to address adverse effects resulting from the full lifecycle of plastic, including its production, design and disposal. More than 3400 people attended with 1500 online participants from 175 UN member states, including 79 ministers and 17 high-level officials. 

“Against the backdrop of geopolitical turmoil, the UN Environment Assembly shows multilateral cooperation at its best,” said UNEA-5 president and Norway’s minister for climate and the environment, Espen Barth Eide. 

“Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic. With today’s resolution we are officially on track for a cure.” 

“Today marks a triumph by planet earth over single-use plastics. This is the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme. 

“It is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it.”

Australians are now using over 3.5 million tonnes of plastics each year, according to WWF, with one million tonnes made up of single-use plastic.

Data shows that 86 per cent of Australians, and on average 88 per cent of people globally, believe it is essential, very important or fairly important to have an international treaty to combat plastic pollution, according to a survey by research company Ipsos. 

“Let it be clear that the INC’s mandate does not grant any stakeholder a two-year pause,” added Anderson. 

“In parallel to negotiations over an international binding agreement, UNEP will work with any willing government and business across the value chain to shift away from single-use plastics, as well as to mobilise private finance and remove barriers to investments in research and in a new circular economy.”

Various nations contributed to the draft resolutions and final resolution, including Peru, Japan and Rwanda. 

“The world has come together to act against plastic pollution – a serious threat to our planet. International partnerships will be crucial in tackling a problem that affects all of us, and the progress made at UNEA reflects this spirit of collaboration,” said Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Rwanda’s minister of environment. 

“We look forward to working with the INC and are optimistic about the opportunity to create a legally binding treaty as a framework for national ambition-setting, monitoring, investment, and knowledge transfer to end plastic pollution.”

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