What You Need to Know About the Plastics Treaty
March 14, 2023
In March 2022, the United Nations Environment Programme instated an International Negotiating Committee (INC) tasked with creating a global, legally binding memorandum tackling the pressing problem of plastics pollution. The INC is scheduled to meet in a series of sessions — the next of which takes place in Paris in May 2023— to allow for negotiations about regulations and implementation to occur between the panel and governments. The Treaty is expected to be finalized by the end of 2024.
Implementation of a strong, strict plastics policy is the most impactful and beneficial solution for healing our planet. 51 nations, including Canada, Mexico, and European Union Members, have banded together to form the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution, an initiative advocating for the Plastics Treaty to be rigid and legally binding for all member countries. Yet, some nations are shying away from the prospect, with serious opposition from powerhouses like Saudi Arabia and The United States of America who want nationally determined policy to protect their lucrative petrochemical companies.
Furthermore, because of the movement away from fossil fuels, these petrochemical companies plan to capitalize on other products made from fossil fuels, like plastic. Many of them see this as an opportunity to expand production and economic gains and are looking to pursue developing economies in Asia and Africa. Allowing them to influence a treaty that would directly impact their growth and profits as businesses is a clear conflict of interest and would cast a shadow over the efforts to save our planet.
Many are calling out the United States and Saudi Arabia on their position for weakening the Treaty as a whole. Nevertheless, the United States is standing its ground and even plans to form a coalition of its own, advocating for a nationally determined plastics policy. They believe the policy must be tailored to best fit the needs and capabilities of each country for it to be most effective. Critics, however, maintain this position is driven by the petrochemical industries’ substantial presence in these countries.
The fact remains that leaving policy up to each nation will make the treaty virtually useless. The lack of unified action that comes as a result of an individualized treaty will leave the international community fragmented when it needs to be united. We have seen this before with the Paris Agreement. Not only did the treaty design make it easy for the United States to walk away, it also allowed countries to get away with minimal contributions and did not challenge them to pursue ambitious actions.
EARTHDAY.ORG’s End Plastic Pollution campaign has been hard at work changing attitudes about and behavior toward plastics use and pollution since 2018, and it has taken until 2022 for world leaders to recognize the need for action. If we have any hope to genuinely curb plastics pollution, what is needed is a global, mandatory treaty. Sign our petition to call on our governments and demand a brighter future, one without plastic pollution.