By Michel Nkuruziza, RWANDA
More than 60 countries have expressed their support for the global treaty on eliminating plastic pollution proposed by Rwanda and Peru.
The number has increased from 25 states in September last year.
The development comes ahead of the 5th UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) from February 28 to March 4 in Nairobi, Kenya — where the world’s nations will start formal negotiations on the treaty.
The treaty seeks to reduce global plastic waste, which is said to fuel climate crisis and environmental catastrophe.
Ahead of the conference, country representatives are already in Nairobi to review the draft treaty that will come up with ways to reduce the manufacture and use of single-use plastics and foster a global circular economy for plastics.
Rwanda and Peru are set to lead negotiations on a draft resolution.
Among the countries that have so far endorsed the proposed treaty include the European Union, which comprises 27 member states.
In a joint statement, France and the United States of America also committed to supporting the treaty.
“The United States and France are committed to protecting our environment for future generations. Recognising the transboundary aspects of plastic pollution and the importance of curbing it at its source, the United States and France support launching negotiations at the upcoming 5th UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) on a global agreement to address the full lifecycle of plastics and promote a circular economy,” reads part of the statement.
Other countries that have endorsed Rwanda and Peru draft resolution include Senegal, Costa Rica, Norway, Switzerland, Guinea, Philippines, Ecuador, Kenya, Chile, Colombia, Uganda, Madagascar, the United Kingdom, Cabo Verde, Azerbaijan, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Panama, Timor-Leste, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Comoros, Eswatini, Pakistan, Benin, Gabon, Iceland, Georgia, the Republic of Korea, Mauritius, North Macedonia, Djibouti and Iran.
Treaty adoption expected by 2024
Depending on how the talks progress, a draft treaty could potentially be ready for adoption by 2024.
If successful, the resolution will convene an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee that will establish an open mandate for negotiations, promote a comprehensive approach to address the lifecycle of plastics, identify key elements of the global response and develop a new legally binding global instrument, such as a treaty.
Under plans drawn up by Rwanda and Peru, and with support from the European Union and other countries, nations would be required to develop national action plans to limit plastic production and use in their economies.
The resolution also encourages the establishment of shared objectives, reporting and monitoring as well as scientific and technical support and financial and technical assistance.
“Global collaboration is necessary to tackle this threat. Only united international action will enable and encourage local solutions. We need concrete, mandatory commitments to safeguard the planet’s future and put an end to plastic pollution,” said Juliet Kabera, Director General, Rwanda Environment Management Authority.
Rwanda outlawed the manufacturing, importation, use and sale of plastic carry bags in 2008 and later single-use plastic items in 2019.
This decisive action against plastic also energised economic growth by creating green jobs around the country, Kabera said.
“Many companies and cooperatives started manufacturing environmentally-friendly bags made from locally available and environmentally-friendly materials. This provided employment to many Rwandans, especially young people and women,” she added.
In an example of the opportunities this brought, in the first month of Kenya’s ban on plastic bags, Rwandan manufacturers exported 78 tonnes of biodegradable bags made from paper, cloth and sisal worth $ 250,000 according to Kabera.
“The proposals being deliberated by Member States envision actions, from source to sea, that address all sources of pollution along the whole lifecycle – from production through disposal and reduction of the leakage of existing plastic currently in the global ecosystem,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director, and United Nations Environment Programme.
“Member States will need to consider in their negotiations the different types of plastics and additives within them, especially to allow plastics to be recycled safely and to foster a circular plastics economy.”
The treaty could be the biggest development on the global environmental agenda since the Paris Accord was signed in 2015, experts say.
Meanwhile, Japan has tabled a rival draft resolution that would focus only on marine plastic waste, while India is pushing for a voluntary agreement instead of a legally binding treaty.
Key facts about plastic pollution
Worldwide, two million plastic bags are used every minute around the world.
On average, a plastic bag is used for just 12 minutes – but take up to 1000 years to decompose.
In 1974, the average person consumed 2kg of plastic a year.
Today, the average consumption per capita is 43kg – an increase of over 2000 per cent.
Over the next five years, the world’s leading plastic manufacturers are set to increase production by a third and yet only 9 per cent of plastics worldwide are recycled.