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UN to take step towards ‘historic’ plastic treaty

NAIROBI (AFP) – The United Nations (UN) is to launch formal negotiations for a global treaty to address a plastic trash “epidemic” that supporters say is a historic moment for the planet.

The UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), convening in Nairobi, is poised to adopt a resolution creating an intergovernmental committee to negotiate and finalise a legally binding agreement by 2024.

The amount of plastic trash entering the oceans is forecast to triple by 2040, and governments have been under pressure to unite behind a global response to the crisis.

The framework for a comprehensive treaty has been approved by UN member states, including major plastic producers like the United States (US) and China, according to sources close to the negotiations.

Officials said it gives negotiators a broad and robust mandate to consider new rules that target plastic pollution from its birth as a raw material to its design, use and safe disposal.

This could include limits on making new plastic, which is derived from oil and gas, though policy specifics will only be determined during later talks.

The mandate provides for the negotiation of binding global targets with monitoring mechanisms, the development of national plans and financing for poorer countries.

Negotiators also have the scope to consider all aspects of pollution – not just plastic in the ocean but tiny particles in the air, soil and food chain – a key demand of many countries.

“We are 100 per cent happy with the outcome,” said Ana Teresa Lecaros, director of environment in the Foreign Ministry of Peru, a country that co-signed one of the draft resolutions.

Head of the UN Environment Programme Inger Andersen said a plastics treaty would be “one for the history books” and the most important pact for the planet since the Paris climate agreement.

The rate of plastic production has grown faster than any other material and is expected to double within two decades, the UN said.

A man walks on a mountain of plastic bottles in the Dandora slum of Nairobi, Kenya. PHOTO: AP

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