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UN environment meet: 175 nations sign mandate to curb use of plastic

A Global Plastics Treaty adhering to the blueprint laid out in Wednesday’s mandate will join the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Climate Agreement as one of the most significant international environmental laws in history.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: March 3, 2022 6:05:31 am
The mandate recommends measures to tackle plastic production, which as of now is slated to almost quadruple by 2050, and take up 10-13% of global carbon budget, endangering climate. It also recommends addressing the toxic burden of plastic.

One hundred and seventy-five countries, parties to the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), on Wednesday signed a mandate which makes it legally binding for the signatories to address the full life of plastics — from production to disposal, to end plastic pollution.

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An International Negotiating Committee (INC) will now be tasked with drafting and ratifying over the mandate over next two years.

A Global Plastics Treaty adhering to the blueprint laid out in Wednesday’s mandate will join the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Climate Agreement as one of the most significant international environmental laws in world history.

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“Historic step at UNEA 5.2. 175 nations endorse a resolution to beat plastic pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024. Under leadership of our PM Narendra Modiji, India has already taken resolute steps to address plastic pollution,’’ Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, who is leading the Indian delegation at the UN Summit in Nairobi, tweeted.

According to the mandate, the treaty will tackle the whole life cycle of plastic — not just post-consumer waste. This is a critical shift in international policymakers’ approach to the crisis, which previously focused on plastic as a “marine litter” issue.

The mandate recommends measures to tackle plastic production, which as of now is slated to almost quadruple by 2050, and take up 10-13% of global carbon budget, endangering climate.

The mandate also recommends addressing the toxic burden of plastic, following hundreds of studies showing the impact of plastic in the environment and its presence in air, agricultural lands, and drinking water. Toxic chemicals from plastic have been shown to enter the human body through a variety of routes, causing infertility, cancers, and metabolic dysfunction, among others.

Dharmesh Shah, senior technical adviser with Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) said, “The basis for the negotiations were the three draft resolutions, a joint one by Rwanda-Peru, which was endorsed by 60 countries, Japan and India. To streamline the process, the co-facilitators of the working group cluster, Canada and Ghana merged the texts of Rwanda-Peru and Japan which then became the base document for negotiations and resulted in the final approved document by UNEA assembly.”

The Indian text proposed voluntary action, which remained a separate document throughout the negotiations, with a majority of countries favouring binding commitments. The term voluntary was retained as an option upon insistence by India.

New Delhi was also keen on the insertion of the words “national circumstances and capabilities” in the text which is in alignment with its position of common but differentiated responsibility under the Paris agreement.

Commenting on its impact in India, environmental lawyer, Ritwick Dutta of LIFE said that “the formation of a treaty on plastics will provide a significant and positive impetus to India’s war on single use plastics.’’

India has banned single-use plastic, which will come into effect on July 1. The Centre has also recently issued fresh guidelines for manufacturers, brand owners, importers of plastics making it mandatory to recycle and has drawn up a pathway to incorporate the large informal sector, which is involved in plastic recycling, in a more formal circular economy.

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