From preventing ozone depletion to stopping illegal wildlife trade, international treaties have played a critical role in responding to global crises throughout modern history. Today, the world is facing new intersecting environmental crises — including a growing one caused by the production, use, and disposal of plastic.
CIEL and partners have been working for years to address the expansion of plastic production in individual countries around the world, but plastic raises a transboundary problem that demands transboundary solutions. We’ve tried patchwork agreements and voluntary measures, and they have not been enough. It’s time for a global plastic treaty.
Since 2017, CIEL and partners have been advocating for a legally binding international agreement to govern plastic. For the treaty to be effective, it must take a global, holistic approach that considers impacts of the full lifecycle of plastic, from its beginnings as fossil fuels to its disposal in landfills or as litter in the ocean. The treaty must aim to minimize the production and consumption of new plastic, eliminate and prevent plastic pollution, and facilitate a safe circular economy.
Working together, we’ve built a growing movement and growing momentum. So far, more than 140 countries have expressed their support, representing every region of the globe. We have focused our efforts on regional blocks. This includes collaborating with Pacific Island countries, among the nations most severely affected by plastic, to provide expert advice on responding to the unique challenges they face.
With global meetings canceled, postponed, or moved online, our work has taken on new dimensions in the last year, but our advocacy has not let up. We’ve collaborated with organizations around the world in an expert working group, maintained and strengthened relationships with diplomatic representatives and United Nations delegates, and hosted preparatory meetings to align partners on priorities ahead of major global gatherings.
Critically, we’ve amplified the drumbeat for a treaty within the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), which met virtually in February and will meet again in person in 2022. At the virtual event, we saw substantial progress: the president of the Assembly acknowledged the push for a legally binding agreement, and at least 40 countries spoke out in support of it. And we worked with Indigenous partners to secure a recommendation by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples urging UNEA to include Indigenous Peoples in a fully meaningful and effective manner in the future negotiations on plastics.
Our coalition of NGOs has grown larger and more robust over the last year, and CIEL continues to serve as an organizational and informational touchpoint in the global plastic policy space. This positions us for the next big UNEA moment in early 2022, where we are working to secure the creation of an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to make the treaty a reality.