A key step towards a landmark treaty to end plastic waste

PARIS (AP) — Global negotiators have agreed to craft a first draft treaty to end plastic pollution, a preliminary but crucial step in tackling one of the most enduring sources of human waste.

Environmental advocates cautiously welcomed the outcome of five days of UN talks in Paris on plastic pollution, but expressed concern that the oil industry and some governments would weaken the eventual treaty. Most plastics are made from fossil fuels.

Delegates to the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastics agreed on Friday evening to produce a first draft before their next meeting in Kenya in November, participants said. The committee is responsible for developing the first legally binding international treaty on plastic pollution, on land and at sea.

A coalition of ‘high ambition’ governments led by Norway and Rwanda, along with environmental groups, want to end plastic pollution by 2040 by cutting production and limiting certain chemicals used in the manufacture of plastics .

“Projections suggest that a child born today will see their plastic production double by the age of 18, but we know that the consequences of increased plastic production will be disastrous for our health, the planet and the climate,” said Dr Tadesse Amera. , who led the International Pollutant Removal Network delegation to the talks. “The stakes are high, but we are optimistic about the growing awareness among delegates of the need for global checks.”

Countries with large oil industries like the United States, China and Saudi Arabia are instead focusing on plastic recycling and want country-by-country rules instead of blanket limits.

Stew Harris, senior director of global plastics policy at the American Chemistry Council, argued for allowing each government “to use the right tools based on their unique circumstances.” In a statement to The Associated Press at the end of the talks, he said circularity – or the reuse of plastics – was “at the forefront of the negotiations as a way to tackle pollution and be more sustainable in production. and the consumption of plastics. We agree that this is the best way.

Humanity produces more than 430 million tonnes of plastic a year, two-thirds of which are short-lived products that quickly become waste, filling the ocean and often making their way up the human food chain. , the United Nations Environment Program said in April. report. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, plastic waste generated worldwide is expected to nearly triple by 2060, with around half ending up in landfills and less than a fifth recycled.

More than 2,000 participants from nearly 200 countries, including governments and observers, took part in the talks this week. Waste pickers and some advocacy groups said they were initially denied access to the talks. Then, debates over rules of procedure — including whether decisions would require consensus or only two-thirds approval — protracted debates, participants said.

But they eventually agreed to produce a draft treaty by November, which keeps things on track to produce a final version by the end-2024 deadline. The talks this week were the second of five series of meetings that needed to be held to complete the negotiations.

“Time is running out and it is clear from this week’s negotiations that oil producing nations and the fossil fuel industry will do everything in their power to weaken the treaty and delay the process,” said Graham Forbes of the Greenpeace USA Global Plastics Campaign. “Although substantive discussions have taken place, there is still a tremendous amount of work ahead of us.”


McDermott reported from Providence, Rhode Island.


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