The chorus demanding a global plastics treaty has been long and loud and you could be forgiven for being cynical about how long getting agreement will now take and exactly what impact it will have and how quickly. What is impressive is that from the meeting announcement not much more than a month ago to now, a lot has already happened.AT A MEETING OF THE UN MEMBER STATES IN NAIROBI, THE AGREEMENT WAS REACHED TO DEVELOP AN OVER-ARCHING FRAMEWORK FOR REDUCING PLASTIC WASTE ACROSS THE WORLD.
The milestone has been likened to the Montreal Protocol that was developed in 1989 to phase out Ozone-depleting substances. The interconnected plastics world and the incredible scale of money involved in plastic is somewhat more complex than Ozone, but on the flip side, so too is the increasingly perilous state of our climate.
It is envisaged that the global plastics treaty would set rules for production, use and disposal of plastics - and essentially address the full life cycle of plastic products - production, use and disposal.
The UN team have until 2024 to negotiate the plastic pollution treaty with respective leaders and that includes all the legals and finances. As negotiations progress, it is expected that the pressure to help countries in the global south dealing with plastic problems created in the global north will increase. Groups like Minderoo Foundation have been reporting on and calling for this action.
While the achievement of a treaty is a seriously big deal, it's not our only challenge with plastics. One of our biggest is misinformation, but as science is starting to prevail more often, there is also some light in the information tunnel.
Marcos Orellana, UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, has urged countries to follow the science with respect to exposure to toxic substances, and called out companies that manipulate information and use denial, misdirection, and distortion tactics to keep their products on the market.
In a report on the ‘Right to Science in the Context of Toxic Chemicals’ to the Human Rights Council on 21 September 2021. He warned that disinformation about scientific evidence on hazardous substances has become a powerful tool for manipulating public understanding and debate. This has led to confusion, doubt, and is taking place at the expense of proper human rights protections.
"GOVERNMENTS SHOULD ADOPT AND ALIGN MEASURES TO PREVENT EXPOSURE TO HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES BASED ON THE BEST AVAILABLE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE AND SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGHS; AND TAKE STEPS TO CORRECT THE PUBLIC RECORD OR ISSUE CLARIFICATIONS WHEN SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION IS MISREPRESENTED."