Plastic Pollution: Experts call for 'ambitious and bold' UN treaty

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Plastic pollution: Experts call for “ambitious and bold“UN treaty

Plastic waste is colonizing the oceans, littering the shores and alter the underwater fauna.

Only a bold and ambitious United Nations treaty, including sweeping reforms to the entire plastics lifecycle, can enable the planet to stem the global waste crisis, experts said on Monday.

Five days from the scheduled end of negotiations, UN member states still have a huge job ahead of them to finally bring to life the landmark high seas treaty. facing, according to the defenders of the oceans, a risk of etiolation.

After more than 15 years of informal and then formal discussions, delegations have been meeting since February 20 for the third last round of negotiations in less than a year.

Ago made progress last week, Nathalie Rey, of the High Seas Alliance, which brings together some 40 NGOs, told AFP on Monday.

“Time is running out and the pace must pick up for this second week to ensure the treaty crosses the finish line. »

— Nathalie Rey, Strategic Advisor at High Seas Alliance

But others are less positive. Negotiations are going in circles, progressing at a snail's pace, Greenpeace's Laura Meller said in a statement.

Recognizing the many problems that persist, the President of negotiations Rena Lee called on Monday in a short plenary session for negotiators to be flexible and creative.

The “plastic soup” of the North Pacific Ocean extends from Japan to the United States, covering an area approximately three times France (1.6 million km2).

Several gray areas persist in the latest draft of the treaty.

In particular, the creation of marine protected areas, an emblematic tool of the future agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

According to several sources involved in these negotiations, interviewed by AFP, China is pushing for the future Conference of the Parties (COP) to be able to create these sanctuaries only by consensus and not by a qualified majority vote.

This would be a veto power, used by Beijing for years to prevent the creation of other marine protected areas by the Commission for the Conservation of Marine Fauna and Flora of the United States. x27;Antarctica (CCAMLR).

China must urgently reinvent its role in these negotiations, underlined Laura Meller who calls on it to show the same leadership as in December when, under his presidency, all of the world's governments pledged to protect 30% of the planet's land and oceans by 2030.

An almost impossible challenge without including the high seas, of which only about 1% is protected today.

The high seas begin where x27;stops the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of the States, at a maximum of 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the coasts, it is therefore not under the jurisdiction of any country.

While it represents 60% of the oceans and almost half of the planet, it is crucial for the protection of the entire ocean, vital for humanity, but threatened by climate change, overfishing and pollution of all kinds, such as plastic.

If current trends continue, the use of plastic will almost double compared to 2019 in the countries of the G20 by 2050, to reach 451 million tonnes per year, according to the report. In 1950, there were only 2 million tons of plastic produced on the planet.

Even if the measures considered most likely to reduce plastic consumption worldwide are implemented, they will fail to prevent a substantial increase in the production and use of plastic, according to a report. x27;Economist Impact, by The Economist Group, and The Nippon Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, released Monday.

The study underscores the level of ambition and sense of urgency needed at the negotiating table, economist Gillian Parker, co-author of the report, told AFP. p>

The report models three policy approaches – all assessed by the UN – that cover the entire life cycle of plastic, from production to disposal.

  • Ban single-use plastics;
  • Making producers responsible for plastic waste management;
  • Taxing virgin plastic resin.

A global ban on unnecessary single-use plastics, including sachets and cotton swabs, would only slow growth in the consumption of plastic than 14% by 2050, according to the study.

The so-called EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) sectors, which place the responsibility for the collection of final waste and recycling on plastic-emitting manufacturers, would barely curb the expected increase in consumption, from 451 to 433 million tonnes.

And even a business tax on virgin plastic resin would only reduce consumption projection by 10% until 2050.

The combined implementation of these three measures would still allow global plastic consumption to increase by a quarter, the experts summarize.

These insufficient measures also come up against substantial obstacles: producers, retailers, industrial organizations or consumer associations are likely to oppose them.

Industry has been very clear that she doesn't think taxes are productive, says Parker. The chemicals and plastics industries are even less enthusiastic about reducing production.

Recycling, according to the report, has not met the expectations, even if there is still part of the solution. Additionally, many countries lack the infrastructure to handle the scale of plastic waste generated, and it remains cheaper to produce virgin plastic than to recycle it.

It is more effective to intervene at the beginning of the cycle of the plastic industry than at the end, when we throw everything away, she says.

With information from Agence France -Press

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