In recent days, negotiations organized by the United Nations took place in Paris with the aim of making progress towards a global treaty on plastics.
The French one was the second of five intermediate summits which will have to ferry the nations until the approval of the treaty, foreseen by 2024to reduce the impact of plastic on the environment (and on our bodies).
If an agreement is reached for a legally binding treatyaccording to experts it will be a decisive turning point, comparable to what the Paris agreement represented for the climate.
At present, however, the road is still decidedly long and complexmainly for the huge ones interests economic and geopolitical at stake.
During the last few negotiations, in fact, very few concrete steps forward were seen, while what emerged very clearly were the sharp divisions between countries not heavy pressure exerted by companies in the sector.
A boy protests against plastic pollution in Indonesia, 2019.
More than 1,700 people took part in the proceedings, including delegations from the Member States and civil society observers, which ended in early June with the commitment to prepare a first draft of the agreement by the next session, scheduled for November in Nairobi, Kenya.
Treaty on plastics: what was discussed in Paris
According to the schedule, the five days of negotiations should have allowed for deal with very concrete issueslinked to the production and disposal of plastic, with the ultimate goal of already drawing up a first draft of the treaty and allowing the next round of talks in Kenya to make more significant progress.
More than half of the time available, however, saw the work essentially blocked by a long stall which for the first three days led the delegates to focus on voting procedures to be taken to prepare and approve the plastics treaty.
To slow down the debate were mainly the oil-rich countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Brazil, as well as some of the nations that use the most plastic, such as China and India. The proposal of these nations was to equip the countries with veto power in the votes, while according to others an approval system based on a majority by two thirds.
According to Politico reports, an official of a country in the High Ambition Coalition – which includes the European Union, Canada, Australia, Chile and Mexico – accused the nations involved of deliberately “blowing up” the talks in Paris and to have led a “coordinated” resistance.
On the third day, after a few moments of tension, in order to proceed on other issues the question has in fact been left unresolvedwith a compromise postponing these procedural discussions to a later date.
The time left to devote himself to more concrete topicsIn the end, it was little. However, there was quite broad agreement on the key elements that the plastics treaty should contain.
In particular, the need to manage the pollution of the microplasticswhich have now been found in every corner of the planet and even in the organism allegedlywith still unknown consequences on our health.
Stakeholders have also called for regulation for the thousands of dangerous chemicals which are used in plastics, and the creation of a mechanism financial to support the transition and protect the rights of people disproportionately exposed to plastic pollution.
Most of the countries that took part in the summit also agreed on the importance of stop using PFASextremely persistent substances in the environment and in the organism of human beings, where by accumulating they can have adverse health effects. These substances are also present in abundance in various areas of Italy.
Among the key and most divisive themes, also the need to limit the production of plastic. Some nations are in fact lobbying for the treaty to focus on waste management and encourage the recycling of plastic, which however has proven to be an ineffective solution to seriously combat pollution. Other countries are therefore asking for more ambitious measures, highlighting the need to limit the production of plastic itself.
“Time is running out, and it is clear that oil-producing countries and the fossil fuel industry will do everything to weaken the treaty and delay the process» commented Greenpeace USA’s Global Plastics campaign manager, Graham Forbes.
«L’plastic pollution and the climate crisis they are two sides of the same coin. The Global Plastics Treaty must address plastic production head-on. This will align with the need to stay within 1.5°C (of warming compared to the pre-industrial era, ed) and move the world away from its dependence on plastics.