Calls for countries to consider a global agreement to prevent plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is not being effectively addressed by the current international legal and policy framework. Expert Group request UN to consider new global agreement. 

In the beginning of November over 200 delegates from all over the world representing government, business and civil society met to discuss how to deal with the increasing amount of ocean plastic pollution. A large majority of experts expressed support for launching negotiations to establish a global agreement to prevent plastic pollution at the fifth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA).

– It is frightening to know that vast amounts of plastic is entering the ocean and the environment every day, and that the problem is only increasing. In the same way we are cooperating globally to reduce climate emissions through the Paris Agreement, we need a global agreement to accelerate actions to prevent plastic pollution, says Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Sveinung Rotevatn.

After a Norwegian initiative, the third UN Environment Assembly established an Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group to assess various response options that can effectively reduce ocean plastic pollution. The Expert Group has now identified a range of options and requests countries to seriously consider these at the fifth UN Environment Assembly. Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister Sveinung Rotevatn is currently the President of the UN Environment Assembly.

Waste of resources

Vast quantities of plastic waste makes it to the ocean every day. Estimates show that plastic production is set to double in the next 20 years. There is reason to expect that pollution levels will rise in parallel if stronger measures are not put in place quickly.   

The Expert Group agrees that existing efforts are not sufficient, and there is a urgent need for stronger measures throughout the life cycle of plastics at the national, regional and global level to stop ocean pollution.

– Plastic pollution is destroying our oceans and the environment, with detrimental effects to animal life and biological diversity. But this is not only a pollution problem, it is also a waste of resources. I believe a global agreement will lead to stronger measures being implemented by countries throughout the life cycle of plastic than otherwise would be the case, says Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister, Sveinung Rotevatn.

Digital meetings

On account of the pandemic, delegates were unable to meet face-to-face and the meeting was held virtually. At times, there were significant technical difficulties for several delegates throughout the meeting as the quality of internet connections varied across geographical regions.

– It is notable that the group was able to agree even under such difficult circumstances. Environmental problems do not go away just because there is a pandemic. We cannot afford to postpone every challenging conversation until we are back to normal, says Rotevatn.

Internationally there is growing support for establishing a global agreement to prevent plastic pollution. Around 110 countries are encompassed by political declarations of support for exploring this possibility. However, several major countries such as USA and China have not expressed support for a new agreement.