Legalbrief, 19 March, 2019
It is not just climate change that threatens our survival, but resource extraction and pollution,
At the UN conference, countries set their sights on a pivotal deal to curb plastic waste, a source of long-term pollution and worsening contamination of the ocean’s food chain. A News24 report notes that the UN wants individual countries to sign up to ‘significantly’ reduce plastic production, including a phasing out of single-use plastics by 2030 – a goal inspired by the 2015 Paris Agreement on voluntary reductions of carbon emissions. Msuya said the world needed to ‘transform the way our economies work … break the link between growth and increased resource use, and end our throwaway culture’. The One Planet Summit brought together heads of state, including French President Emmanuel Macron and Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta to lend political clout to the process. Siim Kiisler, UN Environment Assembly president and Estonia’s Environment Minister, said it was a ‘critical time for action to protect and reverse the degradation of our planet’. ‘We are not going fast enough,’ he told reporters.
But while country representatives agreed to significantly reduce single-use plastics over the next decade, the voluntary pledges fell far short of what was required, according to green groups. The Guardian reports that Norway, Japan and Sri Lanka had put forward proposals for a legally binding agreement for nations to coordinate action against plastic litter in the oceans and microplastics. India also suggested strong action with a resolution to phase out single-use plastic across the world. However, a coalition of environmental groups condemned the US for blocking the ambitious attempts to tackle plastic pollution at source as well as downstream. On Friday, a series of non-binding proposals were agreed, including the adoption of an action plan by the International Maritime Organisation’s marine environment protection committee to reduce plastic litter from ships, and suggestions for better global management of data on plastic pollution. A final statement said countries would ‘address the damage to our ecosystems caused by the unsustainable use and disposal of plastic products, including by significantly reducing single-use plastic by 2030’. BBC News reports that more than eight m i l l i o n tons of plastics enter the world’s oceans each year.