How can cooperation on trade contribute to the UNEA process on plastic pollution?
In 2021, over 100 countries are calling for a new global treaty to tackle plastics pollution. In early September, a diverse group of governments will come together in Geneva for a Ministerial Meeting to devise next steps and galvanize momentum. Meanwhile, the challenges of plastics pollution have spurred work in a range of international organizations and processes. Central among these are several resolutions and ongoing discussions on plastic pollution in the context of the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA). Over time, plastics-focused discussions under the UNEA have evolved from effects on marine ecosystems, to environmental impacts along the life-cycle of plastics, on land and in the air, including climate impacts as well as the impacts of plastic pollution on public health and economic development. There is also growing recognition of the need to tackle the ‘upstream’ sources of plastic pollution alongside efforts to address ‘downstream’ waste.
Alongside the UNEA process, over 190 countries have signed new ‘plastic waste’ amendments to the Basel Convention, which seek to better regulate trade in plastic waste and became effective in January 2021. Meanwhile, a group of WTO Members launched an Informal Dialogue on Plastic Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade in November 2020, which aims to promote cooperation on trade and trade policies in ways that can support and complement international cooperation to reduce plastic pollution.
This event highlighted where and how trade and trade policies are relevant to plastic pollution, and the potential for stronger cooperation on trade to support and complement international efforts to tackle plastic pollution, including through a proposed new global treaty. It brought together high-level representatives of three international organizations working at the intersection of plastic pollution and trade – UNCTAD, UNEP and the WTO — as well as Ambassadors from countries advancing proposals for enhanced cooperation in this area, including through processes leading to UNCTAD 15 and the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference.
Topics addressed included:
- Relevance of trade policies to reducing the use of avoidable, problematic and environmentally harmful plastic products, hazardous plastic wastes, and additives.
- Relevance of trade policies to promoting the use of plastic substitutes, environmentally sound waste management technologies and supportive circular economy approaches that benefit developing countries.
- Importance of transparency of trade flows of plastic products and wastes and their environmental implications, including through cooperation on international standards on plastics.
Watch the event:
H.E. Mr. José Valencia, Ambassador of Ecuador to the WTO in Geneva
- Ms. Isabelle Durant, Acting Secretary-General, UNCTAD
- Mr. Jean-Marie Paugam, Deputy Director-General, WTO
- Ms. Susan Gardner, Director, Ecosystems Division, UNEP
- H.E. Mr. Gustavo Manrique, Ecuador’s Minister for Environment and Water, co-convener of the Ministerial Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution
- H.E. Mr. George Mina, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Australia to the WTO in Geneva
- H.E. Mr. Chad Blackman, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Barbados to the UN and WTO in Geneva
- H.E. Ms. Tine Mørch Smith, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva (UNEA Chair)
H.E. Mr. Simon Manley, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva
H.E. Mr. Didier Chambovey, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the WTO in Geneva.