Global Treaty to End Plastic Pollution

About the Global Plastics Treaty

Overview

Plastic is an essential part of our everyday lives. Every year, the world produces about 430 million metric tonnes of plastic. While plastic is a useful material, 90% of it pollutes our planet, particularly single-use items such as plastic cutlery, packaging, and microplastics, that break off of larger pieces of plastic, including textiles. Currently, an estimated 9 million to 14 million tons of plastic waste ends up in our oceans every year. Plastic waste has been found in all areas of the globe, from the deepest seas to the most remote mountains. It causes major harm to wildlife and ecosystems, disrupts the livelihood of millions of people, and poses significant risk to human health and the world economy.

At the current rate, global plastic pollution could triple by 2040 unless we take immediate action. However, voluntary measures and country-driven efforts have proven ineffective in stopping plastic from polluting and poisoning our planet, and it’s only getting worse. Over the past five years, the number of national and voluntary actions to tackle the problem have increased by 60%; despite this, plastic pollution has continued to increase by 50%.

The Solution

The solution is a new set of legally binding and equitable global agreements that define the tangible steps and timelines necessary to change how we produce and consume high-risk plastic.

This must include:

  • Phasing out all unnecessary plastic products that pose a high pollution risk, including single-use items and excessive packaging.
  • Establishing binding and specific design requirements for plastic products that lead to a decrease in plastic consumption.
  • Matching strong binding measures with ambitious mechanisms to enable effective implementation and a just transition, including robust technical and financial assistance.

In March 2022, the UN Environmental Assembly convened in Nairobi, Kenya, to debate the global plastic crisis. In a historic move, 175 nations voted to adopt a global treaty for plastic pollution at this convening—and they agreed upon an accelerated timeline so that the treaty could be in place by as soon as 2025.

The unique potential of a global, United Nations-led treaty is to hold all countries to a high common standard on plastic consumption and create a clear path toward a future free from plastic pollution. This will create a level playing field that incentivizes and supports national actions.

The power of moving beyond fragmented national plans is demonstrated by other successful environmental agreements. For example, through unified global bans, the Montreal Protocol has phased out more than 99% of ozone-depleting substances since its establishment, setting the ozone layer on a gradual path to recovery.

We must move quickly: during the two-year negotiation period of the plastics treaty, total plastic pollution in the ocean is expected to increase by 15%. Ending plastic pollution is in our grasp, and the treaty negotiations are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do so

Visions for an Ambitious and Just Treaty

Before the third series of negotiations toward a legally binding global treaty to end plastic pollution (INC-3), WWF and Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Beyond Petrochemicals hosted Visions for an Ambitious and Just Treaty in Nairobi on Sunday, Nov. 12. The event brought together government negotiators, rights-holders, NGOs, scientists, and businesses, to emphasize the need to ensure an ambitious, equitable, and just treaty that reduces petrochemical and plastic production and consumption while also protecting people and the planet.

Towards a Global Treaty to End Plastic Pollution

2023

June: The second negotiation meeting, INC-2, for the new treaty takes place in Paris, France. One hundred thirty-four governments call for common, global rules for plastics across its entire lifecycle, and a mandate for developing a zero draft of the treaty is secured.

September: The much anticipated 'zero draft' is published.This comprehensive first draft of the global plastic pollution treaty sets the stage for the upcoming negotiations at INC-3 in November.

2022

January: More than 70 leading businesses and financial institutions call on governments to develop and adopt a comprehensive and robust legally binding treaty on plastic pollution.

March: More than 2.2 million individuals signs WWF's plastics petition. The petition is handed over to the UNEA president and Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Espen Barth Eide, during UNEA in Nairobi.
A historic moment! UN Member States adopts Resolution 5/14, titled “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument”.

August: Norway and Rwanda, joined by 18 other countries, launch the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution by 2040.

November: The first negotiating meeting (INC-1) took place in Punta del Este in Uruguay in November and December. During the meeting, more than 145 countries backed calls for strong global rules to stop plastic pollution.

2021

June: The UN Ocean Day Declaration on Plastic Pollution is launched in New York, after an initiative from the Alliance of Small Island States. Seventy-four countries are asking for negotiations on a new legally binding global plastics agreement to start as soon as possible.

September: The UN Ocean Day Declaration on Plastic Pollution is launched in New York, after an initiative from the Alliance of Small Island States. Seventy-four countries are asking for negotiations on a new legally binding global plastics agreement to start as soon as possible.

December: Over 700 civil society groups and nongovernmental organizations from 113 countries sign a Civil Society Manifesto, urging UN Member States to negotiate a legally binding plastic treaty.

During COP22 in Barcelona, the Mediterranean countries declare their support for a global plastics treaty. With this, 156 countries, more than two-thirds of the UN's member states, have expressed their official support for a global agreement to stop plastic litter.

2020

July: Fifty-five countries set up a group at the UN headquarters in New York that will work to put a new global agreement in place. Norway, Maldives, and Antigua and Barbuda take on the responsibility of leading the group.

October: A group of 29 global companies launches a business manifesto calling for a new treaty on plastic pollution. This comes after the Boston Consulting Group, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and WWF launched a report on the business case for a new treaty on plastic pollution highlighting the potential gains of harmonized global rules on plastic pollution.

EU member states commit at the ministerial level to work for a new global agreement against plastic litter.

2019

March: At the UN Environment Assembly's meeting in Nairobi, a majority of states agreed to further work to establish a global agreement against plastic in the ocean.

April: The Nordic countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland) adopt a Nordic plastic declaration, in which they advocate a new global agreement against plastic in the ocean.

July: Fifteen Caribbean countries adopt a declaration on plastic litter, calling for a global agreement against plastic in the ocean.

August: The leaders of the Pacific countries commit to work for a global agreement to stop plastic in the ocean.

November: African Ministers of Environment commit to work for a global agreement on plastic pollution in a joint policy message.

2017

December: The UN Environment Assembly establishes an expert group to explore potential global actions to support the long-term elimination of marine litter and plastic pollution. WWF, together with other environmental groups, puts forward for the first time the idea of a global and binding agreement against plastic pollution. The expert group meets twice in 2018 in Nairobi and Geneva, resulting in a majority of government experts recommending exploring the idea of a global binding agreement further.

A Beautiful Future Awaits

A Beautiful Future Awaits – But Only If We Deliver an Ambitious Treaty to End Plastic Pollution

 ©Greg Armfield