Resolution to End Plastic Pollution: UNEA

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    • Recently, 175 nations endorsed a historic resolution at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) in Nairobi to End Plastic Pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024. 
      • The historic resolution, entitled “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument”.

    United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA)

    • It was created in June 2012, when world leaders called for the UN Environment to be strengthened and upgraded during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also referred to as RIO+20.
    • It is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment. 
    • It addresses the critical environmental challenges facing the world today.
    • It meets biennially to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law. 
    • Through its resolutions and calls to action, the Assembly provides leadership and catalyses intergovernmental action on the environment. 

    Major Highlights 

    • The resolution, based on three initial draft resolutions from various nations, establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) which will begin its work this year, aiming to complete a draft legally binding agreement by the end of 2024.
    • It is expected to present a legally binding instrument, which would reflect diverse alternatives to address the full lifecycle of plastics, the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials, and the need for enhanced international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation.
    • UNEP would convene a forum by the end of 2022 in conjunction with the first session of the INC, to share knowledge and best practices in different parts of the world.
    •  It is the most important international multilateral environmental deal since the Paris climate accord.
    • Issues: 
    • Plastic production soared from 2 million tonnes in 1950 to 348 million tonnes in 2017, becoming a global industry valued at US$522.6 billion, and it is expected to double in capacity by 2040. 
    • Impacts: 
      • 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:
        • Exposure to plastics can harm human health, potentially affecting fertility, hormonal, metabolic and neurological activity, and open burning of plastics contributes to air pollution.
        • By 2050 greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal would account for 15 percent of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (34.7°F) in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.
        • More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers.
        • Some 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flow annually into the oceans.
          • This may triple by 2040.
    • Recommendations: 
    • The draft resolution recommended the treaty promote the sustainable design of plastic packaging so it can be reused and recycled, which would be significant for big consumer goods companies that sell their goods in single-use packaging.
    • The mandate also recommends addressing the toxic burden of plastic, following hundreds of studies showing the impact of plastic in the environment and its presence in air, agricultural lands, and drinking water. 
    • A shift to a circular economy can reduce the volume of plastics entering oceans by over 80 per cent by 2040
    • Reduce virgin plastic production by 55 per cent
    • Save governments US$70 billion by 2040;
    • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent; and create 700,000 additional jobs – mainly in the global south.

    Plastic 

    • Plastic is a synthetic organic polymer made from petroleum with properties ideally suited for a wide variety of applications, including packaging, building and construction, household and sports equipment, vehicles, electronics and agriculture.
    • Plastic is cheap, lightweight, strong and malleable. Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year.
    • Sources of Plastic: 
      • The main sources of marine plastic are land-based, from urban and storm runoff, sewer overflows, beach visitors, inadequate waste disposal and management, industrial activities, construction and illegal dumping.
      • Ocean-based plastic originates mainly from the fishing industry, nautical activities and aquaculture.
      • Under the influence of solar UV radiation, wind, currents and other natural factors, plastic fragments into small particles, termed microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm) or nanoplastics (particles smaller than 100 nm).

    Global Efforts To Tackle it

    • Legal efforts have been made at the international and national levels to address marine pollution.
    • The most important are:
      • The 1972 Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping Wastes and Other Matter (or the London Convention)
      • The 1996 Protocol to the London Convention (the London Protocol)
      • The 1978 Protocol to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
      • The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) considers plastic marine debris and its ability to transport harmful substances as one of the main emerging issues affecting the environment.
      • At the 2015 G7 summit in Bavaria, Germany, the risks of microplastics were acknowledged in the Leaders’ Declaration.
      • GloLitter Partnerships (GLP): It is a project launched by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and initial funding from the Government of Norway.
      • Clean Seas Campaign:
        • The United Nations Environment Programme launched the Clean Seas Campaign in 2017
        • Aim:  The goal was to galvanize a global movement to turn the tide on plastic by reducing the use of unnecessary, avoidable and problematic plastics including single-use plastics and phasing out intentionally added microplastics. 

    Steps taken by india 

    • India has embarked on the journey to end plastic pollution by taking sound and effective measures through EPR on plastic packaging as well as putting a ban on single-use plastic items having low utility and high littering potential, 
    • The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 clearly stipulate that urban local bodies (ULBs) should ban less than 50 micron thick plastic bags and not allow usage of recycled plastics for packing food, beverage or any other eatables.
      • The Rules also require that local bodies should provide separate collection, storage and processing of plastic waste in their areas.
    • The government has set an ambitious target of eliminating single-use plastics by 2022.
    • India is a signatory to MARPOL (International Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution).
    • The Centre has also recently issued fresh guidelines for manufacturers, brand owners, importers of plastics making it mandatory to recycle and has drawn up a pathway to incorporate the large informal sector, which is involved in plastic recycling, in a more formal circular economy.
    • The “India Plastic Challenge – Hackathon 2021 
      • It is a unique competition calling upon start-ups /entrepreneurs and students of   Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to develop innovative solutions to mitigate plastic pollution and develop alternatives to single-use plastics.
    • Swachh Bharat Mission
    • India Plastics Pact
    • Project REPLAN
    • Un-Plastic Collective
    • GoLitter Partnerships Project

    Source:IE