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UNEA plastic pollution resolution

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 05, Mar 2022
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A resolution at the recent fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) held in Nairobi sought to end plastic pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024. It was hosted by the UN Environment Programme.

  • The resolution will pertain to marine ecosystems as well, and will include both binding and voluntary approaches from member states.

Need for a binding resolution to limit plastic pollution:

Plastic production has risen exponentially in the last decades and now amounts to some 400 million tons per year– a figure set to double by 2040.

The impacts of plastic production and pollution on the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution are a catastrophe in the making:

  1. Exposure to plastics can harm human health, potentially affecting fertility, hormonal, metabolic and neurological activity, and open burning of plastics contributes to air pollution.
  2. By 2050 greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal would account for 15 percent of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (34.7°F).
  3. More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers.
  4. Some 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flow annually into the oceans. This may triple by 2040.

A shift to a circular economy can reduce the volume of plastics entering oceans by over 80 per cent by 2040; reduce virgin plastic production by 55 per cent; save governments US$70 billion by 2040; reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent; and create 700,000 additional jobs – mainly in the global south.

Outcomes of the meet on ending plastic pollution:

  • The world’s ministers for the environment agreed to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) with the mandate to forge an international legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution.
  • INC will begin its work in 2022, with the ambition of completing a draft global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024.
  • This development is considered the most important environmental deal since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

About the UN Environment Programme (UNEP):

  • UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment.
  • It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

What is the United Nations Environment Assembly?

  • It is the governing body of the UN Environment Programme.
  • It is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment.
  • The Assembly is made up of the 193 UN Member States and convenes every two years to advance global environmental governance.
  • It was created in June 2012, during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also referred to as RIO+20.