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UN meeting now declares ‘end of plastic pollution’

Vintz Plastics Limited director Vanita Halai at one of their stores in Pipeline, Nakuru. The county government has partnered with the company to help create jobs for residents. [Daniel Chege, Standard]

World leaders in Nairobi yesterday endorsed a landmark agreement to end plastic pollution in the next two years. The heads of state and environmentalists from 175 countries made the historic resolution against plastic production during the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) in Gigiri, Nairobi.

The resolution ‘End Plastic Pollution: Towards a legally binding instrument’, aims to tackle plastic pollution in marine and other environments through reduction in product design, consumption and waste management.

There will thus be national action plans towards prevention, reduction and elimination of plastic pollution by 2024.

Espen Eide, the UNEA president, said: “Plastic pollution constitutes a threat to all environments and poses risks to human health.”

This, he said, requires measures along the full life cycle to tackle.

The resolution also contains the first protections for human rights, recognition for waste pickers, and acknowledgment of the role of Indigenous peoples.

Anger Andersen, the Executive Director, UNep, said the agreement was the most important international multilateral environmental deal since the Paris Climate Accord, “considering the impacts of plastic production and pollution on the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution are a catastrophe in the making.”

Research indicates that exposure to plastics can harm human health, potentially affecting fertility, hormonal, metabolic and neurological activity, while open burning of plastics contributes to air pollution.

15 per cent

By 2050, Greenhouse Gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal is projected to account for 15 per cent of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

Data at the UNep shows that more than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers.

A shift to a circular economy can reduce the volume of plastics entering oceans by more than 80 per cent by 2040 and create 700,000 additional jobs – mainly in the global south, according to researchers.

The UNEA 5-2 will be followed by [email protected], a two-day Special Session of the Assembly, marking UNep’s 50th anniversary where building a resilient and inclusive post-pandemic world will feature prominently.