WASHINGTON: Countries have begun to talk about a future plastics treaty that would cut pollution, some hope entirely by 2040, at UN talks in Uruguay this week, with many countries calling for curbs on plastic production as a way to reach that goal.
There is disagreement on how to proceed, as the UN agreed in March on a resolution to create the world's first treaty to deal with the scourge of plastic waste that extends from ocean trenches to mountaintops.
The UN Environment Programme says that the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute, threatening biodiversity and damaging marine ecosystems, while greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastics are expected to reach 6.5 gigatons by the year 2050.
Delegations from governments, civil society and industry are meeting in the beach town of Punta del Este for the first of five Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee INC talks that will run until the end of 2024 to prepare the future treaty.
At INC-1, we can lay the groundwork needed to implement a life-cycle approach to plastic pollution, which would significantly contribute to ending the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, pollution and waste, said Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, Executive Secretary of the INC Secretariat on Plastic Pollution.
A life-cycle approach looks at how governments, consumers and businesses can play a role in all the stages of a product's life, such as raw material extraction, production, distribution and disposal.
On Monday, a country delegation expressed support for a treaty cracking down on plastic production, an approach opposed by the plastics and petrochemical industries.
The EU, members of the High Ambition Coalition that includes Canada, Georgia, the UK and others, said they wanted to see the treaty include binding global obligations for the whole life cycle of plastics - including production - to end plastic pollution by 2040.
The US wants a treaty that addresses plastic pollution by 2040, but with a structure that resembles the Paris climate agreement, which is based on voluntary national action plans and does not specifically address plastic production.
Switzerland, Norway, Uruguay and Australia also supported the national action plan approach.
Some NGOs that are closely watching the talks expressed concern about the Paris agreement style approach.
We are three decades into the UN climate talks and seven years into the Paris agreement, which has failed to deliver. Carroll Moffett, the president of the Center for International Environmental Law, said that model is one we should be weary of.