Global countries make ‘historic’ commitment to tackle plastic pollution

Heads of state, environment ministers and other representatives from 175 nations have agreed to develop a legally binding agreement by 2024

Big Zero Report 2022

A total of 175 countries have endorsed a “historic” resolution to develop an international legally binding agreement to tackle plastic pollution, “the most significant multilateral deal since the Paris accord”.

Heads of state, environment ministers and other representatives made the commitment at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) – the world’s highest level decision-making body on the environment – to end plastic pollution and forge a legally binding agreement by 2024.

It would address the full lifecycle of plastics, including the production, design and disposal.

The resolution, based on three initial draft resolutions from various nations, established an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), which will start its work in 2022.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will convene a forum by the end of 2022 that is open to all stakeholders to share knowledge and best practices in different parts of the world.

Plastic production soared from two million tonnes in 1950 to 348 million tonnes in 2017, becoming a global industry valued at $522.6 billion (£392.5bn) and is expected to double in capacity by 2040.

However, only 9% is recycled; the vast majority of which accumulates in landfills or the natural environment. Over time, these materials break down into microplastics that pollute the human food chain, freshwater systems and air.

By 2050, greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal would account for 15% of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP said: “Today marks a triumph by planet earth over single-use plastics. 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.

“Let it be clear that the 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.”

If you enjoyed this story you can sign up to our weekly email for Energy Live News – and if you’re interested in hearing more about the journey to net zero by 2050, you can also sign up to the future Net Zero newsletter. 

Latest Podcast