In what would be a monumental achievement for environmental diplomacy, news is circulating that an international plastics treaty may be endorsed.
It is no secret that plastic is one of the most infamous contributors to both ozone and environmental damage. We currently produce a staggering 430m tonnes a year. If production is not addressed, it will continue accelerating, with consumption projected to not just increase but almost double in the next three decades. The amount of plastic discarded into the ocean is set to more than double by 2040.
The reports of a potential unprecedented treaty mean that not only will we curb the increase, but the production trend could go into reverse.
The news is emerging on the back of world governments agreeing to draft a new plastic treaty at ‘’Plastic Summit’’ in Paris this month. The UN stated that this could reduce production by 80% by 2040 – an incredible statistic. The agreement would take action next year.
Producing single-use plastics accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions, that the whole of the UK combined.
With over 3000 harmful plastics chemicals are reported to be present in plastics, we are only starting to discover the extent of the impact on the planet and human health.
Although it is very early stages in the talks for the agreement, the impact would be revolutionary. Implementation would also take time, but an important distinction to made is that it requires no new technology to achieve this tremendous progress. The UNEP has stated that the 80% decrease could be achieved using existing methods.
Suggested methods include all unnecessary single-use plastics, mandating reuse, and replacing as much plastic with biodegradable materials as possible. Governments may also introduce taxes and remove industry subsidies to disincentivise production.
An encouraging sign that the treaty will come to fruition, is the UNEP’s past success rate – they were also responsible for the Montreal protocol, a treaty that was sanctioned by every single country globally.
This signals that the overwhelming concern from the public is now being translated into political pressure and triggering real change to industry standards.
There is of course opposition. Most countries are in favour of internationally enforced legislation, while some countries (China, India, US) are arguing for it to be voluntary. This will need to be resolved in future summits scheduled for this year.
A positive response also be noted, is the support from a large business coalition that supports the treaty. The coalition includes leading brands who produce large amounts of plastics, including Unilever and Coca Cola – another sign that a new era of sustainability-conscious strategy has arrived, and will cause a flow on effect, that will demand businesses world-wide to follow suit.
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