A new treaty to tackle plastic pollution?

Germany, Ecuador, Ghana and Vietnam have joined forces to organize, with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a Ministerial Conference on Plastic Pollution and Marine Litter to be held in a hybrid format in Geneva on September 1-2, 2021, at the WTO. This conference is intended to provide political support for the idea of an international agreement on plastic pollution and marine litter, in preparation for discussions at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi in February 2022.

Urgency to reduce plastic pollution

One figure gives the measure of the challenge : every minute, the equivalent of a dump truck of plastic waste is spilled into the oceans. In one century, plastic has become the 3rd most manufactured material in the world, after cement and steel. Nearly 80% of the plastic produced becomes waste after one year and is a vector of catastrophic pollution. 1.4 million birds and 14,000 marine mammals are found dead each year due to the ingestion of plastics. In addition to this visible pollution, there is an invisible pollution linked to microplastics of less than 5 millimeters, which constitute a threat to biodiversity, ecosystems and human health.

A momentum for a multilateral agreement

The urgency of the fight against plastic pollution is tangible and its consequences on ecosystems, biodiversity and human health, as well as its synergies with climate action, make it a systemic issue with numerous sectoral, political, economic and social ramifications.

The organization of this conference under the auspices of UNEP and on the premises of the WTO demonstrates the will to engage the most concerned actors in the negotiation of a binding agreement to fight plastic pollution and to strengthen environmental multilateralism.

The level of participation is indicative of the momentum : 1103 participants were registered, including 623 state representatives, and 480 non-state actors, notably NGOs and companies, which demonstrate the awareness of the need to adopt a global instrument to fight against a worldwide problem.

A group of countries has taken the initiative to prepare a draft resolution paving the way for the negotiation of an international agreement including binding provisions. The text will be transmitted to all member states in September 2021.

France is committed to the fight against plastic

France, currently vice-president of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), is very involved in this negotiation process.
At the 5th France-Oceania Summit held in July 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron formally endorsed a joint statement in favor of adopting, at the second session of the fifth meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, a decision providing for intergovernmental negotiations on a binding international agreement on plastics.

Read the joint statement at the 5th France-Oceania Summit

The Secretary of State for Biodiversity, Bérangère ABBA, will speak at the high-level session and will support the adoption of a ministerial declaration, taking up and validating the key axes and messages of the working groups. It should send a strong political message in favor of launching negotiations towards a new international treaty on plastic pollution. This would be the first since the adoption of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Last updated on: 1 September 2021