On September 1 and 2, 2021, the first UN ministerial conference on marine litter and plastic pollution met in Geneva, Switzerland, and online. The most significant action of the meeting was Rwanda and Peru’s introduction of a draft resolution to create an intergovernmental committee, similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that would negotiate a global plastics pollution treaty (FPF reported here and here). The resolution received co-sponsorship from all Member States of the EU, Senegal, Costa Rica, Norway, Guinea, Switzerland, and the Philippines.
The negotiating committee would be responsible for creating a treaty “to prevent and reduce plastic pollution in the environment, including microplastics, by promoting a circular economy and addressing the full lifecycle of plastics from production, consumption, and design to waste prevention, management, and treatment.” The draft resolution lists elements to be considered by the proposed negotiating committee. These include the support of sustainable development goal twelve to “ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns” by 2030, the creation of a legally binding mechanism to prevent plastic pollution, as well as financial and technical arrangements to help all countries implement plastic controls. The draft further specifies that countries should address how plastic products are designed “including compounds, additives, and harmful substances, as well as intentionally-added microplastics” (FPF reported).
According to reporting by the Center for International Environmental Law, Japan and the United States “have remained unspecific about the nature of their support and whether it extends to addressing issues such as virgin plastic production and whether the agreement should be legally binding.”
The Ministerial Conference was convened to prepare for the United Nations Environmental Assembly meeting that will take place in February 2022. In that meeting, Rwanda and Peru’s draft resolution will be discussed along with any competing resolutions. Over 120 nations have expressed support for a UN resolution on plastics.
Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, and Vietnam (September 1 and 2, 2021). “Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution.”
Peru and Rwanda (September 2, 2021). “Draft resolution on an internationally legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.” Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution (pdf)
Center for International Environmental Law (September 3, 2021). “Over 120 States Affirm: It’s Time for a Global Treaty on Plastic.”