Legally binding pact slated for 2024
All 175 members of the United Nations have agreed to devise a plan to combat plastic pollution. The U.N. aims to create a legally binding treaty by 2024.
“Today we wrote history. Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic,” said Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s minister for environment and climate and the U.N. Environment Assembly president. “With today’s resolution we are officially on track for a cure.”
A 2020 Pew study found that approximately 11 million metric tons of plastic pollution end up in the world’s oceans each year. Marine species and ecosystems are at risk of extinction if the plastic problem continues to grow, a World Wildlife Fund survey concluded. Greenpeace called the agreement a “big, bold step to end plastic pollution.”
“This is a big step that will keep the pressure on big oil and big brands to reduce their plastic footprint and switch their business models to refill and reuse,” Greenpeace USA’s Graham Forbes said.
Peru, Rwanda, India, and Japan made proposals, and the Environment Assembly merged them into a single resolution to clean up existing plastic pollution and limit future waste.
“It is not always you get such a major environment deal,” Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, told a news conference, calling it “the most significant global environmental governance decision since the Paris (Climate) Agreement in 2015.”
While getting all 175 countries on board is a promising start, there are sure to be battles over what actions the treaty will require and fears it could be rendered toothless by the time it takes effect.
“This is only the end of the beginning, we have a lot of work ahead of us,” a tearful Monica Medina, the head of the U.S. delegation, told Reuters. “But it is the beginning of the end of the scourge of plastic waste for this planet.”