A significant week-long summit dedicated to addressing global plastic pollution wrapped up on Sunday at the United Nations Environment headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. With an impressive attendance of over 2,000 delegates, the discussions revolved around shaping a treaty aimed at combating the escalating issue of plastic pollution.
Last year, a commitment from 175 countries was made to finalize a binding agreement targeting the reduction of plastic pollution by 2024. The recent talks in Nairobi marked the third session out of five scheduled to conclude by the following year, aiming to ratify the treaty by 2025.
However, as the sessions drew to a close on Sunday, there remained a significant divide among delegates regarding the essential elements of the treaty. Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, the executive secretary of the treaty negotiating committee, emphasized the urgent need for action, stating, “Nature is suffocating, gasping for breath. All ecosystems… are under threat from plastic pollution. We hold in our hands the power to correct this destructive course.”
With plastic pollution persisting across various ecosystems and the projection of a threefold increase in production by 2060, environmental groups advocated for a focus on reducing plastic production rather than emphasizing recycling alone.
NGOs urged for a substantial 75% reduction in production by 2040. However, oil-producing nations and representatives from the plastic industry, present at the summit, advocated for recycling measures and improved waste management. Inger Andersen, UNEP’s executive director, stressed the need for a comprehensive treaty addressing the entire life cycle of plastics, from their origin in production to their design, usage, and ultimate disposal.
“We cannot recycle our way out of this mess,” Andersen affirmed, expressing her stance to AFP amid the discussions.
Criticism was directed at a coalition of “low ambition” nations, primarily oil producers such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, accused of hindering the talks’ progress.
Kenya stood among the 60 nations pushing for stringent regulations to curtail plastic usage and production. President William Ruto urged negotiators to accelerate discussions, pointing out that the 2024 deadline was approaching rapidly with only two more meetings scheduled.
Ruto highlighted the critical nature of the issue, labeling environmental pollution as an existential threat to life and humanity itself. Following Nairobi, negotiations are slated to continue in April 2024 in Canada, culminating in South Korea later that year.
These discussions come ahead of the COP 28 climate conference in the United Arab Emirates, intending to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and aid developing nations in mitigating the impacts of climate change. This event follows a year marked by severe weather events worldwide.