175 countries commit to forge internationally binding treaty on plastic pollution by 2024

The resolution establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to complete a draft global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Wednesday 02 March 2022
Photo: @UNEP / Twitter__

Representatives from 175 countries meeting at the resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) in Nairobi March 2, 2022, agreed to end plastic pollution and formulate an internationally binding treaty by 2024.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen tweeted soon after the gavel came down on the historic resolution. She called the development the most important environmental deal since the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The UNEP’s Twitter handle later tweeted a video message from Andersen. 

The resolution, based on three initial draft resolutions from various countries, establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), which will begin its work in 2022, with the ambition of completing a draft global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024.

The three draft resolutions of Peru, Rwanda and Japan were based on the principle of a legally binding target.

In comparison, the Indian draft resolution titled Framework for addressing plastic product pollution including single use plastic product pollution, was based upon the principle of immediate collective voluntary action by countries.

But India has agreed to the setting up of an INC for a new, international and legally binding treaty.

The INC is expected to present a legally binding instrument, which would reflect diverse alternatives to address the full lifecycle of plastics, the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials and the need for enhanced international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation.

Under the legally binding agreement, countries will be expected to develop, implement and update national action plans reflecting country-driven approaches to contribute to the objectives of the instrument.

They will be expected to promote national action plans to work towards the prevention, reduction and elimination of plastic pollution and to support regional and international cooperation.

“The world has come together to act against plastic pollution — a serious threat to our planet. International partnerships will be crucial in tackling a problem that affects all of us and the progress made at UNEA reflects this spirit of collaboration,” Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, Rwanda's Minister of Environment, said.

“We look forward to working with the INC and are optimistic about the opportunity to create a legally binding treaty as a framework for national ambition-setting, monitoring, investment and knowledge transfer to end plastic pollution,” she added.

The UNEP will convene a forum by the end of 2022 that is open to all stakeholders, in conjunction with the first session of the INC, to share knowledge and best practices in different parts of the world.

On completion of the INC’s work, the UNEP will convene a diplomatic conference to adopt its outcome and open it for signatures.

“Let it be clear that the INC’s mandate does not grant any stakeholder a two-year pause. In parallel to negotiations over an international binding agreement, UNEP will work with any willing government and business across the value chain to shift away from single-use plastics, as well as to mobilise private finance and remove barriers to investments in research and in a new circular economy,” Andersen said.

UN member states requested Andersen in the resolution to continue to support and advance the work of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter, while strengthening scientific, technical and technological knowledge with regard to plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

This is significant as 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flows annually into oceans according to an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trust. This may triple by 2040 to 29 million tonnes.

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