Amid global debate, UN plastics treaty at risk of falling short

A United Nations (UN) effort to put an end to global plastic pollution is badly needed, but is also at high risk of falling short of its goals amid debate over myriad complex issues, according to environmental advocates.

A paper published Thursday by the Global Water Partnership (GWP), a coalition of thousands of water research and advocacy organizations around the world, warned that a global plastics treaty will face many hurdles, including required coordination and legislation among national governments.

“Many of the current efforts by national and local governments, industry, and civil society are still highly uncoordinated and often focus on downstream solutions,” the authors of the paper wrote. “They fail to address the source of plastic leakage.”

The UN committee on plastics was meeting in Paris this week to develop an international treaty that could include legally binding measures to be implemented in countries around the world. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which is hosting the talks, has outlined a goal of reducing plastic waste by 80% by 2040.

The meeting is the second of five set to take place as the UN committee draft a treaty it hopes all countries will agree to by the end of 2024.