Member states, industry players, UN agencies, leading experts and civil society organisations from around the globe have come together this week in Geneva to discuss a potential new global convention to beat plastic pollution.
The world’s governments have recently recognised the need for a coordinated global response to tackle marine plastic pollution. They are now considering the creation of a new global convention to tackle the issue under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the world’s highest-level decision-making body that addresses the most pressing environmental challenges. UNEA meets biennially to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law.
Governments have also recognised that the creation of a new treaty will only happen if all relevant stakeholders are on board to drive it forward. To assist with this process, a special Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics was set up so all voices have a chance to be heard.
The expert group met for the first time in Kenya last May at the 1st High-Level Event on Marine Plastic Litter and Microplastics to discuss possible actions to address marine plastic litter and microplastics. Three potential options were considered: (1) maintaining the status quo, (2) revising and strengthening existing frameworks, and (3) designing a new global architecture with a multi-layered governance approach aimed at addressing plastic pollution.
The group decided that the first was not an option, but that instead, a global response from all sectors: government, civil society and industry, is required to address the plastics challenge.
"IUCN has been closely following the discussion on the need for a global, binding treaty on plastic pollution," said Joao Sousa, Senior Programme Officer of Marine Plastics for IUCN's Marine and Polar Programme. "The need, cost, timeline and possible architecture for a future multi-layered global convention on plastic pollution has been the subject of several meetings that IUCN has attended to contribute to the discussion."
Members of the group are now in Geneva for the 2nd meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics to discuss the development of a new global convention and identify other possible solutions to this environmental crisis. Since addressing the plastics issue is highly complex, they are discussing a range of issues. These include the potential institutional architecture for the convention, methods to improve coordination of existing conventions and agreements, gaps and barriers to progress, monitoring and research needs, ambitions and timelines, industry expectations and the effectiveness of voluntary measures. These represent a small overview of the multitude of issues which must be overcome if such a convention were to be negotiated.
The goal of this 2nd meeting is to make significant progress on the new convention, including whether or not it is a viable way forward, before the upcoming fourth session of UNEA. This session is themed “Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production” and will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, in March 2019.
Under its global “Closing the plastic tap” programme, IUCN is currently implementing three large scale projects across four regions to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.
IUCN is an accredited member of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of UN Environment