The UN negotiations for an international agreement to stem the tide of plastic waste have started in Paris with urgent calls for action. The head of the UN Environment Program UNEP, Inger Andersen, warned that disposable plastic “is suffocating our ecosystems”. It is also true that “we cannot free ourselves from this mess by recycling”.
In a video message at the start of the conference, French President Emmanuel Macron called plastic pollution a “time bomb” and already a “scourge”. Plastic waste poses a risk to human health, biodiversity and climate goals. The French President warned that the priority must be to reduce the production of plastics and to ban the most environmentally harmful products such as single-use plastics “as soon as possible”. If we don’t act, plastic waste will triple by 2060. He also called for an end to the export of plastic waste from industrialized countries to countries in the Global South.
The opening session of the five-day deliberations in Paris
The chairman of the International Negotiating Committee at the Paris negotiations, Gustavo Meza-Cuadra Velasquez, spoke of a huge challenge that everyone involved in the conference knew, “but it is not insurmountable”. Countries, soil, water, air and people’s bodies are all affected by plastic. The problem can only be solved together. A fair and effective, legally binding agreement is needed that guarantees that garbage is only the last resort.
Conference leader Gustavo Meza-Cuadra Velasquez relies on an international agreement
By 2024 there should be solutions for dealing with plastic
The Paris meeting is the second round of intergovernmental negotiations for such a global agreement. United Nations member states aim to end plastic pollution by 2040. On the way there, a total of five rounds of negotiations are planned until 2024. The meeting in Paris, which is scheduled to last until Friday, will be attended by UN member states as well as non-governmental organizations, scientists and trade unions. Last year, 175 countries pledged to agree on a legally binding UN treaty against plastic pollution in the environment and oceans by 2024.
The widespread use of plastic bottles worldwide, just one of the big problems
Plastic can be found everywhere: plastic particles have already been detected not only in clothing, building materials, packaging, diapers, polar ice and deep-sea fish stomachs, but also in human blood and breast milk. Two thirds of the last 460 million tons of plastic products produced are thrown away after one or a few uses. Only ten percent are recycled.
Plastic products made from crude oil are also accelerating climate change. In 2019 they caused 1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gases and thus at least 3.4 percent of the climate-damaging gases worldwide.
qu/kle (dpa, afp)