Nations commit to develop a legally binding agreement to beat plastic pollution


On 2 March, at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) in Nairobi, heads of state, environment ministers and other representatives from 175 countries adopted a historic resolution to end plastic pollution and develop an international legally binding agreement by 2024. The resolution addresses the entire life cycle of plastics, including their production, design and disposal. This is the most significant multilateral environmental agreement since the Paris Agreement.

The historic resolution entitled “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an Internationally Legally Binding Instrument” was adopted. The resolution, which is based on three initial draft resolutions from various states, establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to begin its work in 2022 and produce a draft global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024. It is expected to present a legally binding instrument that takes into account different alternatives for the entire life cycle of plastics, the development of reusable and recyclable products and materials, and the need for increased international cooperation to facilitate access to technologies, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will convene a forum by the end of 2022 that is open to all stakeholders in conjunction with the first session of the INC, to share knowledge and best practices in different parts of the world. It will facilitate open discussions and ensure they are informed by science, reporting on progress throughout the next two years. Finally, upon completion of the INC’s work, UNEP will convene a diplomatic conference to adopt its outcome and open it for signatures.

A shift to a circular economy can reduce the amount of plastic entering the oceans by more than 80 per cent by 2040, reduce the production of new plastic by 55 per cent, save governments US$70 billion by 2040, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent and create 700,000 additional jobs – mainly in the Global South.