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Resolution paving way for global action to Beat Plastic Pollution 

  • IASbaba
  • March 5, 2022
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March 2: Resolution paving way for global action to Beat Plastic Pollution – https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/pollution/175-countries-commit-to-forge-internationally-binding-treaty-on-plastic-pollution-by-2024-81776 

TOPIC:

  • GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation

Resolution paving way for global action to Beat Plastic Pollution 

Context: Representatives from 175 countries meeting at the resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) in Nairobi March 2, 2022, agreed to end plastic pollution and formulate an internationally binding treaty by 2024.

  • The global plastic market in 2020 has been estimated at around $580 billion according to a report Plastics Market– Global Industry Analysis, Market Size, Opportunities and Forecast, 2020-2027
  • But the monetary value of losses of marine natural capital is estimated to be 4.3 fold or as high as $ 2.5 trillion per year, according to a study published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin
  • Climate will also pay a cost since greenhouse gas emissions from the production, recycling and incineration of plastics could account for 19 per cent of the Paris Agreement’s total allowable emissions in 2040.

So, addressing plastics pollution is a prudent investment in nature and climate, as well as a socio-economic opportunity.

Managing plastic waste is increasingly becoming a global environmental and economic challenge.

  • Plastic waste is a risk to public health as it enters our food chain, creates congestion problems in drains, causing flooding, ends up in river beds and oceans, depleting ecosystems and marine biodiversity, and makes solid waste management more expensive as landfills and open incineration do not provide an acceptable solution for disposal.
  • The production process for plastic produces greenhouse gas, thus contributing to climate change.
  • At landfills, it disintegrates into small fragments and leaches carcinogenic metals into groundwater. Plastic is highly inflammable — a reason why landfills are frequently ablaze, releasing toxic gases into the environment. It floats on the sea surface and ends up clogging airways of marine animals.

The Resolution

The resolution, based on three initial draft resolutions from various countries, 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.

  • The three draft resolutions of Peru, Rwanda and Japan were based on the principle of a legally binding target.
  • The Indian draft resolution titled Framework for addressing plastic product pollution including single use plastic product pollution, was based upon the principle of immediate collective voluntary action by countries.

The INC 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
  • The need for enhanced international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation.

Under the legally binding agreement, countries will be expected to 

  • Develop, implement and update national action plans reflecting country-driven approaches to contribute to the objectives of the instrument.
  • Promote national action plans to work towards the prevention, reduction and elimination of plastic pollution and to support regional and international cooperation.

INC’s mandate does not grant any stakeholder a two-year pause. 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.

The Way Forward

  • International partnerships will be crucial in tackling a problem that affects all of us.
  • The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee should aim towards a systemic change, for solutions applied throughout the entire plastic value chain.
  • It should aim towards a rethinking of how plastics are produced, used and disposed of, with the double-dividend of not just delivering on a greener planet, but new employment opportunities. This requires ambitious, bold and measurable action by governments, civil society and the private sector at all levels
  • There is a need for the UN to continue to support and advance the work of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter, while strengthening scientific, technical and technological knowledge with regard to plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. This is significant as 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flows annually into oceans according to an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trust. This may triple by 2040 to 29 million tonnes.

Important value addition

Plastic 

  • It is a synthetic organic polymer made from petroleum. 
  • Applications: 
    • Packaging
    • Building and construction
    • Household and sports equipment 
    • Vehicles 
    • Electronics 
    • Agriculture
  • It is cheap, lightweight, strong and malleable.
  • Sources of Marine Plastic: 
    • Land-based and storm runoff
    • Sewer overflows
    • Beach visitors 
    • Inadequate waste disposal 
  • Impact of Plastic Pollution 
    • Ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species.
    • The transfer of contaminants between marine species and humans through seafood consumption. 
    • Contribution to global warming

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Essay: There is no Plan B because we do not have a Planet B.
  2. Examine the issue of marine pollution with special focus on plastics. How does plastic waste threaten the oceans? Discuss.
  3. Do you think a complete ban on single-use plastic can address the problem of pollution in a sustainable manner? Isn’t sustainable management of plastic use through the ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ approach a better way to handle pollution? Critically examine.

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