Global Plastics Treaty – Update (March, 2022)

Global Plastics Treaty will be one of the most significant international environmental laws in history.

About the treaty

  • UN member states have agreed to start international negotiations on drawing up a global plastics treaty that could set rules for the production, use, and disposal of plastics.
  • The decision was made at a meeting of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.
  • An International Negotiating Committee (INC) will be tasked with drafting and ratifying the mandate by 2024. The main aim is to end global plastic pollution.
  • According to the agreed mandate, the treaty makes it legally binding for the signatories to tackle the whole life cycle of plastic, from production to disposal and not just post-consumer waste. Previous approaches focused on plastic as a “marine litter” issue.
  • The text also recognizes the significant contributions of waste pickers and workers in the informal economy, who are vulnerable to occupational health risks.

India’s proposal

  • While the majority of countries favor binding commitments, India proposed voluntary actions. The term voluntary was retained as an option upon insistence by India.
  • India was also keen on the insertion of the words “national circumstances and capabilities” in the text which is in alignment with its position of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) under the Paris agreement, 2015.

Need for the treaty

  • Plastic production is set to quadruple by 2050 and may take up 10-13% of the global carbon budget. Hydrocarbons used to produce plastics emit large quantities of greenhouse gases (GHG), which aggravates the climate crisis.
  • The UN Food and Agricultural Association warned that microplastics leach into the environment when plastic breaks down and pollute agricultural soils.
  • Toxic chemicals from plastic have been entering the human body through a variety of routes, causing infertility, cancers, metabolic dysfunction, and other disorders.

India’s initiatives

  • India has banned single-use plastic, which will come into effect on July 1, 2022.
  • Recently, the Central government has also issued fresh guidelines for manufacturers, brand owners, importers of plastics making it mandatory to recycle plastic.
  • Central government has drawn up a pathway to incorporate the large informal sector, which is involved in plastic recycling, in a more formal circular economy.

The creation of this mandate recognizes the urgency of addressing the plastic crisis. Solving the plastic problem is crucial to protect human rights and achieve UN sustainable development goals (SDG).

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