UK begins talks ahead of global plastic pollution treaty negotiations

The UK has today (1 November) begun internal talks with businesses, environmental groups, scientists and civil society ahead of global negotiations on a legally-binding plastic pollution treaty which will take place between 28 November and 2 December in Uruguay. The negotiations will be led by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Ocean plasticThe treaty intends to commit to a framework which seeks to end plastic pollution by 2040. It will focus on the whole lifecycle of plastic – including production, consumption, disposal and waste management.

It is currently predicted that by 2040 ocean plastic will have increased threefold. It is reported that current efforts will only reduce this by 7 per cent.

The UK Environment Secretary, Thérèse Coffey – alongside the Ocean Plastics Leadership Network – led the talks with stakeholders including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Coca-Cola, Nestle, H&M and Greenpeace. The Ocean Plastics Leadership Network is comprised of industry, scientists and activists who focus on ending ocean plastic pollution. Defra says the meetings are intended to ‘strengthen the UK’s leading voice at the treaty negotiations’.

The UK currently forms a part of the ‘High Ambition Coalition To End Plastic Pollution’ which was created in August and includes more than 30 countries, many of which are at the forefront of the environmental crisis. It advocates for a legally-binding treaty. Several other G7 members such as Canada, France, and Germany are also a part of the coalition.

According to a document exclusively seen by Reuters, the United States is seeking to form its own coalition ahead of the negotiations. Reuters reported that six government and civil sources involved in the talks say the move expresses a desire to keep the focus on the individual efforts of countries rather than provide universal rules. The approach desired by the US follows a similar model to the 2015 Paris climate accord.

Coffey said: “Plastic pollution has a direct and deadly effect on our wildlife, polluting our ocean and damaging our planet.

“Our laws are already helping to cut waste domestically, and international action is needed to end plastic pollution by 2040.

“Today’s meeting was important in bringing together government, business and environmental organisations on this issue – it’s vital for us all to work together if we are to make progress in tackling plastic pollution globally.”

David Ford, Founder of Ocean Plastics Leadership Network, added: “We are honoured to collaborate with the UK Government on the UK Plastics Treaty Dialogues.

“Our objective with the series is to build knowledge and understanding of the UN Global Treaty process and various solutions, to help unite the myriad of stakeholders in working together in efforts to solve the plastics crisis.

“We aim to expand this effort to 20 countries worldwide."