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UN seeks to agree on a ‘zero tolerance’ plan for ocean plastic pollution

UN seeks to agree on a ‘zero tolerance’ plan for ocean plastic pollution

Countries could agree on a plan for zero tolerance for plastic pollution in the oceans at a UN environmental summit.

Governments are being asked to move toward a legal treaty banning plastic waste from entering the sea.

Ships are currently prohibited from dumping plastic overboard, but there is no international law against plastics flooding the sea from land.

Experts say ocean plastics are an obvious topic for a global treaty: Plastics pose a threat on a large scale.

Plastic pollution does not recognize international borders.

Delegates in Nairobi preparing the way for the UN environment ministers meeting next week are in general agreement on the need for tougher measures to combat the plastics crisis.

They are organizing a task force to explore options for global action to address plastic waste and microplastics.

The United States has volunteered to participate, but has traditionally been reluctant to accept any international law.

Mirror mirror

One idea is to mirror the model of the Paris climate agreement.

In that agreement, the framework for reporting emissions cuts and agreeing long-term targets is legally binding, but the national actions themselves are determined voluntarily.

Environmentalists say that getting better information on how much plastic is flowing into the sea, and from what sources, would be an important step.

The UN has already committed to a substantial reduction in plastic waste by 2025, but a Norwegian-led resolution says the long-term goal should be zero plastic waste.

He also wants to clean the existing plastic from the beaches. He says this is better value for money and better for the environment than some of the large-scale cleanup experiments currently being conducted in the middle of the Pacific, which they fear could harm wildlife.

Cleaning beach plastic is especially important, he says, because abrasion breaks down large plastics into very harmful microplastics.

Norway also favors attempts to clean up discarded “ghost” fishing nets in the seas.

The conference will also hear that stronger leadership and coordination is needed, be it from a strengthened United Nations Environment Program, or even from a new UN plastics agency.

Cautious progress?

Norway wants governments to compile an assessment of the exact amount of plastic waste entering the sea from their territory. Admit that this will not be easy.

A source close to the talks told BBC News: “There are many questions to be resolved. Should there be a legally binding instrument banning plastic from the earth?

“If not, what other kind of global action should there be? We are dealing with this big problem in its early stages. "

China, the world's biggest plastics polluter, is said to be wary of being bound by global rules.

Other big polluters like India and Indonesia are said to support the resolutions.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently applauded the plastic cleaning of a beach in Mumbai, saying: "It is our duty to protect the environment for our future generations."

WWF's Eirik Lindebjerg said the Nairobi meeting could be a turning point in the plastics crisis. He told BBC News: "The treaties on climate change and biodiversity were started in this forum, so there is a history of making things happen."

“Plastic is one of those issues that clearly needs a global deal, with maybe eight million tons ending up in the ocean.

“Plastic flows are huge and harmful, they flow across borders. We have to stop releasing plastics into the ocean, and this meeting looks like it could be a very important start. "

The meeting will also discuss air and water pollution. A global ban on lead in paints can be passed.

By Roger Harrabin

Original BBC article (in English)


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