UK to support 'Paris Agreement on plastics'

The UK Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Zac Goldsmith, has revealed that the UK is willing to discuss a new global treaty to tackle plastics pollution, which has been supported by more than two-thirds of UN member states.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there are more than 86 million tonnes of plastics in the oceans, with up to 12 million tonnes added each year

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there are more than 86 million tonnes of plastics in the oceans, with up to 12 million tonnes added each year

A steering group comprising on UN member state met last week via a virtual event to discuss the swelling issue of plastic pollution and the harm it causes the planet’s ecosystems, namely oceans. While both the UK and US weren’t present at these discussions, the EU discussed potential solutions with African, Baltic, Caribbean, Nordic and Pacific states.

In total, two-thirds of UN member states shared a willingness to consider a new global treaty on plastics pollution. According to the Guardian, any treaty would be “akin to the Paris climate agreement or the Montreal protocol to prevent ozone depletion”. 

At the time of the virtual meeting, the UK was reportedly considering negotiating the new global deal, or keep to strengthening existing initiatives aimed at reducing plastics waste – such as the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions focused on protecting human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes. However, the ad hoc working group (AHEG) on marine plastics set up by the UN believes that these existing frameworks of inefficient at tackling plastic waste.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there are more than 86 million tonnes of plastics in the oceans, with up to 12 million tonnes added each year. The Foundation has predicted that if this trajectory continues, there could be more plastics than fish in the oceans, by weight, by 2050.

The UK has since decided to support a new global treaty. Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Zac Goldsmith stated: “We have a chance now to create an unstoppable momentum to tackle plastic pollution in a way that the Paris agreement has done for climate change and the Montreal Protocol has done for ozone depletion. I hope many, many other nations will join us as well.”

Goldsmith also reiterated that businesses and nations should focus on nature as a way to combat the ecological crisis, and noted that the UK could use COP26 as a key driver in raising actions on the areas of plastics waste and biodiversity loss.

It comes after Business For Nature and published a call to action this summer, urging businesses to work with governments to reverse nature loss.

The call to action was signed by 31 organisations including CDP, Forum For The Future and UN Global Compact. WWF and the Science Based Targets Network, which are currently part of a collaborative effort to develop a science-based target framework for nature, are also signatories of the open letter.

The letter reiterates the World Economic Forum’s previous research proving that $44trn – more than half of global GDP – is exposed to risks from nature loss, adding that this figure is likely higher now amid the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. During lockdown, energy use and global emissions have fallen, but the destruction of the Amazon rainforest is reportedly accelerating due to decreased patrols and the fallout of a major oil spill in Russia’s Arctic north continues to be felt.

In the UK, the Government has confirmed that more than 50 community-led projects have been awarded a share of a £10m to plant more than 84,000 trees in towns and cities across England to improve biodiversity.

Funding has been allocated by the Forestry Commission’s Urban Tree Challenge Fund. The latest projects mean that a combined total of up to 134,000 new trees will be planted across England’s towns and cities, which surpasses the Fund’s original target to plant 130,000 trees.

According to the Government’s new Ten Point Plan, nature-focused solutions would support 20,000 jobs by improving flood defences by 2027, attracting £5.2bn of investment.

Matt Mace



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