The world has taken a step towards ending plastic pollution. Now let’s enjoy the moment.

March 2 was a historic moment in our efforts to stop plastic pollution. At United Nations Environment AssemblyExternal link (UNEA), governments have agreed to formally begin negotiations for a global legally binding treaty on plastic pollution.

This content was published on March 20, 2022 – 10:00

Managing Director, WWF International

This is a big step forward, following more than four years of campaigning by WWF and many others. More … than 2.2 million of you have signed our petitionExternal link calling for a global agreement, a call that was backed by more than 140 leading companiesExternal link as well as many governments.

The UNEA resolution is the clearest sign that the world is ready to take seriously one of the greatest environmental problems of our time. Dubbed the “world parliament for the environment,” the UNEA brings together representatives of the 193 UN member states, as well as business leaders, environmentalists and civil society organizations.

Action to tackle the plastic pollution crisis cannot come too soon. The total mass of plastic produced by man to date is twice as bigExternal link like the mass of all terrestrial and marine animals combined. And plastic is everywhere: in the deepest oceansExternal linkin arctic sea iceExternal linkeven in our own bodiesExternal link as it accumulates in the food chain.

We’ve all seen shocking picturesExternal link beaches clogged with plastic waste, turtles eating plastic bags or marine mammals entangled in abandoned plastic fishing gear. Almost all marine species are affected by plastic in one way or another. But equally shocking is the plastic pollution we can’t see: In some regions, including the Mediterranean, East China and Yellow Sea, and the Arctic, concentrations of tiny microplastics have thresholds already exceededExternal link beyond which significant ecological risks arise.

And if we don’t act now, the problem will only get worse. Plastic production is expected to more than double by 2040, which could mean the amount of plastic debris in the oceans quadruplesExternal link by 2050. Compounding other risks like climate change and overfishing, unchecked plastic pollution will lead to extinctions and ecosystem collapse.

No country can solve this global crisis alone. But a legally binding global treaty could make a huge difference, setting ambitious goals and a solid framework to achieve them.

At WWF, we will continue to support the ongoing negotiations for a strong, ambitious and legally binding treaty. This means that we will support developing country governments to ensure that their views are heard and incorporated into any agreement. Overall, the international community will be able to do more to address the problem if resources are allocated in a way that maximizes cost-effectiveness and supports low-income countries in their efforts to meet their obligations. . For most environmental treaties, this involves setting up a dedicated and adequately resourced financial mechanism, possibly combined with a technology and knowledge transfer system.

And we will continue to work with progressive businesses to advocate for a strong treaty that meets the goal of a circular economy. This means examining how companies can integrate the full life cycle of plastics. Of course, we need better waste management to prevent plastic from leaking into nature. But we also need to reduce the amount of virgin plastic produced and used, which means addressing everything from product design to consumer habits. A global plastics treaty can play an important role in accelerating the transition to a circular economy.

It is also important that a global treaty respects the rights of the informal waste sector. Up to 20 million people work as waste pickers and are responsible for more than half of plastic recycling worldwide. The global treaty is an opportunity to support and develop this vital work.

Having common rules and regulations, harmonized standards and clear definitions will create a level playing field and ensure the participation of every country and every company. This is an opportunity to offer positive incentives to countries taking action to eliminate plastic pollution and to hold accountable those who do not.

We will also continue to remind governments how important ending plastic pollution is for our world and for all who care.

The UNEA resolution is a major step towards making a global treaty a reality, but it is only the beginning. We must seize the momentum and continue to push for urgent action. Every day we delay, more plastic enters the ocean – where it will remain for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Now let’s reverse the tide of plastic pollution, once and for all.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SWI

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Bryce K. Locke