Published: 2023-06-03 16:59
Last Updated: 2023-09-30 16:27
The world should see the first draft of a highly anticipated and much-needed international treaty to combat plastic pollution by the end of November, 175 nations gathered in Paris decided Monday after five days of grueling talks.
The assembly's negotiating committee called for the preparation of the "zero-draft" of a "legally binding instrument" ahead of a third round of talks in Nairobi, with the aim of finalizing the treaty in 2024.
The decision emerged from an eleventh-hour meeting led by France and Brazil and was adopted by the full plenary at UNESCO's Paris headquarters.
"Are there are no more interventions on this point?" asked Peru's Gustavo Meza-Cuadra Velasquez, chair of the forum's Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee.
"It is so decided," he continued, as he brought down the gavel.
The breakthrough came after considerable "nit-picking" and "delaying tactics" by some countries, said France's minister for ecological transition, Christophe Bechu.
Frustrations bubbled up during the first two days of the talks, which were devoted entirely to a debate over procedural rules, as large plastics producer nations -- including fossil fuel supplier Saudi Arabia, as well as China and India -- resisted the idea the deal could be decided by a vote rather than by consensus.
On current trends, "by 2050 there will be more plastic waste than fish in the oceans," Mexican negotiator Camila Zepeda told AFP. "We can't get hung up on procedural rules."
Concern over the impact of plastics on the environment and human wellbeing has surged in recent years along with a crescendo of research documenting its omnipresence and persistence.
In nature, microplastics have been found in ice near the North Pole and inside fish navigating the oceans' deepest, darkest recesses.
The equivalent of a garbage truck's worth of plastic refuse is dumped into the ocean every minute.
Plastic debris is estimated to kill more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
Filter-feeding blue whales consume up to 10 million pieces of microplastic every day.
In humans, microscopic bits of plastic have been detected in blood, breast milk and placentas.
Green groups participating in the talks as observers had mixed reactions.
Eirik Lindebjerg, global plastics policy manager for WWF, hailed what he called "tangible progress."