It fairly well is worth noting the recent National Green Tribunal’s slapping a hefty penalty of INR 200 crores to the Government of Manipur for not securing an effective policy to curb solid waste management of which plastics waste is dominant. It is evidently seen in all corners of urban settlements, and quite pronounced in Nambul River that flows through the highly urbanized Imphal city, which has become more or less an open-bin waste dumping site for the city residents.
By Salam Rajesh
Global level debates and discussion on plastics use, and the call for an end to plastics use, has been on the agenda for years on end, without any tangible agreements reached between the negotiating parties.
With this volatile agenda on the platter, the first meeting of the First Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-1) for the development of an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution is taking place amidst a context of growing economic, food, and energy insecurity.
The First Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee was established by the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) as per the UNEA’s resolution 5/14 to ‘End plastic pollution, securing an international legally binding instrument’. At the same time, it reflects upon other international environmental treaties and those relating to trade, including within the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in addressing matters of concern on plastic pollution.
Amidst the growing global concern on environmental degradation in many parts of the world, and the prioritization on plastic pollution leading to human health concerns while also contributing to carbon emissions from plastic waste burning leading to global warming, the UNEA says ‘there is overwhelming evidence that conservation works, and is an effective and essential contributor towards many of humanity’s goals, including towards a circular economy and a systemic shift to sustainable trade on plastics’.
The UNEA states that the “INC-1 provides a unique opportunity for the global community to reinforce plastic pollution governance at the interface of human rights, environment, trade rules, and sustainable development”.
Reflecting upon the First Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) highlights that, “Guided by the IUCN resolutions adopted by IUCN members in 2021, the IUCN strongly welcomes the ongoing process for a global Plastics Treaty and supports the partnerships in place in order to eliminate and remediate plastic pollution and enhance circular plastic management at local, regional, and global levels”.
The conservation organization urged upon Parties to adopt ‘clear, preferably numerical and verifiable objectives in order to take priority action by 2025 to prevent further plastic pollution from single-use plastic products in protected areas and in the land, water and marine environment’.
It strongly encouraged Parties to ‘start negotiations with the ultimate goal of stopping plastic pollution worldwide by 2030 (Zero Pollution) in sight, while considering national and local circumstances and capabilities for implementation along the whole plastics value chain’.
The organization also called for ‘inclusiveness in the process and an effective treaty as an outcome’. It reiterated that the “Treaty must address the full life-cycle, embrace bold, new, science-based tools, cover a broad scope of environmental resources (land, water, ocean) and create a set of policy measures and means of implementation to upscale and redirect finance, incentives, and trade”.
While stressing that ‘strong stakeholder involvement in the upcoming negotiations and in implementation is key’, the conservation organization said it stood ready to support the process. The IUCN reminded world bodies that the organization is “well equipped to play a leading role in shaping critical coalitions, bring scientific knowledge and technical expertise to contribute throughout the INC-1 process. IUCN also offers the tools to guide, monitor, and measure action including the IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based Solutions”.
In this context, it may be recalled that two IUCN Resolutions adopted in 2021 at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseilles, France, recommended strong actions on the subject matter, calling for stopping the global plastic pollution crisis in marine environments by 2030, and to eliminate plastic pollution at the global scale.
Inherently, the Union called for “An ambitious, effective, equitable and ecologically sustainable, inclusive, gender responsive content of the Plastic Treaty, with clear, preferably numerical and verifiable objectives to prevent further plastic pollution from single-use plastic products everywhere, including in protected areas and in the marine environment by 2025, and ultimately Zero Pollution by 2030”.
The IUCN further called for “An effective Treaty embracing bold, new and effective solutions, and the means of implementation and monitoring and compliance provisions. It should cover a broad scope – land, water, ocean – and must aim to upscale and redirect finance, incentives, and trade”.
“A plastics treaty that addresses impacts across a full lifecycle approach while considering national and local circumstances and capabilities for implementation along the whole value chain”, with a “Strong and inclusive stakeholder participation during the process and implementation as well as science-based targets for an equitable, successful outcome”.
In emphasizing upon this later stated argument, the IUCN says “It is clear that navigating the complex INC-mandate will require strong, science-based engagement from stakeholders positioned ‘across the value chain’ of plastics production, manufacturing, use, recycling, and disposal and at all levels – sub-national, national, regional, and global levels”.
This statement evidently reflects upon the concern that companies may violate the agreements as complying with the negotiations could impact the economy and interests of the plastics industry functioning on a global scale. The reduction in use of plastics, emphatically plastics products of different magnitudes, could impact businesses for companies and industries entirely focused in plastics production for various end-uses.
Stressing that ‘circularity of plastic products and waste can only be achieved by clear, numerical, and verifiable objectives and a set of effective and equitable policy measures’, the Union also stressed that it is important to note that ‘a new plastics treaty must rely on science, and traditional knowledge – that is, the knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems – and learn from and be compliant with other multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs)’.
With a stronger emphasis on humanitarian concerns, the IUCN called on world communities with a relatively passionate message: “It is important to note that there is an increasing convergence among the environment, conservation, and human rights communities as well as with the environmental crime and corruption communities in relation to plastic pollution”.
The message fairly well reflects upon the nexus of powerful companies with political leaders on evident violation of governance and existing rules of law to maneuver so-said ‘development paradigm’ that overlooks humanity’s concerns on health and the environment.
In this context, it fairly well is worth noting the recent National Green Tribunal’s slapping a hefty penalty of INR 200 crores to the Government of Manipur for not securing an effective policy to curb solid waste management of which plastics waste is dominant, as evidently seen in all corners of urban settlements, and quite pronounced in Nambul River that flows through the highly urbanized Imphal city and which is more or less an open-bin waste dumping site for the city residents.
(The writer looks at environmental stories through the journalistic lens. He can be reached at [email protected])