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Global Treaty on Pollution

  • IASbaba
  • March 21, 2022
  • 0
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ENVIRONMENT/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors.
  • GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation 

Global Treaty on Pollution

Context: On March 2, 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) voted to formulate an international legally-binding instrument by 2024 to end plastic pollution. 

  • The decision was taken at the fifth session of the UNEA in Nairobi, Kenya, and was agreed upon by representatives from 175 nations. 

Impacts of Plastic Pollution

  • Plastic production soared from 2 million tonnes in 1950 to 348 million tonnes in 2017, becoming a global industry valued at US$522.6 billion, and it is expected to double in capacity by 2040.
  • Exposure to plastics can harm human health, potentially affecting fertility, hormonal, metabolic and neurological activity, and open burning of plastics contributes to air pollution.
  • By 2050 greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal would account for 15 per cent of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (34.7°F).
  • More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers.
  • Some 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flow annually into oceans. This may triple by 2040.

What is the resolution? 

  • The UNEA resolution to end plastic pollution establishes an intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) which is expected to submit its draft agreement by 2024. 
  • The instrument is expected to be legally binding in nature and would contain alternatives to the full life cycle of plastics, as well as the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials.
  • The resolution also recognises the role of the private sector and stakeholders in the implementation of the treaty and promotes actions at local, regional and global levels while keeping in mind the importance of plastics for society. 

What are the considerations behind the new treaty? 

  • The treaty to end global plastics pollution will focus on elements like worldwide obligations and measures throughout the lifecycle of plastics, right from product design to waste management. 
  • The plastics pollution treaty will also include mechanisms for providing scientific information relevant to the policies of the resolution, and for helping with financial support for its implementation. 
    • It also identifies the importance of indigenous communities and their age-old practices to keep the environments pollution-free and calls for the knowledge of these communities to be taken into account by the INC. 
    • The treaty will keep in mind national action plans and national and international cooperative measures towards achieving the goal of eliminating plastic pollution. 
  • Apart from these considerations, most of which are in the pre-implementation stages, the resolution will also consider including progress assessment for member states. 

Conclusion

  • A shift to a circular economy can 
    • reduce the volume of plastics entering oceans by over 80 per cent by 2040; 
    • reduce virgin plastic production by 55 per cent; 
    • save governments US$70 billion by 2040; 
    • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent; 
    • create 700,000 additional jobs – mainly in the global south.

Connecting the dots:

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