Planetary Boundary for Pollutants, Including Plastics, Exceeded
from UNEP Geneva Environment Network 24 January 2022
For the first time, an international team of researchers has assessed the impact of the cocktail of synthetic chemicals and other “novel entities” on the stability of the Earth system. In a study published last week, the team presents overwhelming evidence that chemicals and plastics have negative effects on planetary health and reveal that humanity has already exceeded the safe planetary boundary in that regard. These results call for swift and ambitious actions to reduce the production and release of pollutants. The article concludes that the recent call for an international science-policy body with oversight over chemicals and waste may provide a forum for informing such actions that are needed to help safeguard the Earth system.
Another report “Connecting the Dots: Plastic pollution and the planetary emergency”, published last week by the Environmental Investigation Agency, presents an overview of the irreversible pollution resulting from rampant overproduction of virgin plastics and their life cycle, which directly undermines human health, drives biodiversity loss, exacerbates climate change, and risks generating large-scale harmful environmental changes. The document outlines recommendations to UN members states on how to address the plastic emergency in the context of the UN Environment Assembly, the negotiation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and the Paris Agreement.
In the run-up to UNEA-5.2, discussions are steering toward the concrete aspects of a possible plastics treaty. A recent session of the Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues offered insights into finance and technical cooperation mechanisms that could be included into the new agreement. Participants relayed the call for a legally binding UN treaty on plastic pollution from over 70 leading businesses and financial institutions in a pre-UNEA statement, issued also last week.
To understand the types of international legal instruments that states can pursue to address the full life cycle of plastics, a new publication by the Centre for International Environmental Law, “ Toward a New Instrument Addressing the Full Life Cycle of Plastics: Overview of the Typology of International Legal Instruments”, released last week, provides a non-exhaustive analysis of various instruments. It considers the practical distinctions, including title and the inception of the negotiation process, and provides a background on the preparation and negotiation of international instruments. The review highlights treaty-making tools to consider during current discussions and future negotiations.
Last updated 24 January 2022