HomeScienceEnvironmentExclusive: U.S. seeks allies as split emerges over global plastics pollution treaty

Exclusive: U.S. seeks allies as split emerges over global plastics pollution treaty

WASHINGTON DC, Sept. 27 (Reuters) – The United States is trying to form a coalition of countries to boost negotiations on a global treaty on plastic pollution, weeks after a similar group launched with several other G7 countries, according to a document seen by Reuters .

The move underscores his desire to keep the treaty’s focus on individual countries’ efforts in a model similar to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, rather than providing new universal rules favored by other major countries. , according to six government and civil society sources involved in the talk.

Members of the United Nations agreed in February to sign the world’s first treaty to tackle the scourge of plastic waste, which stretches from ocean troughs to mountaintops, with a goal of completing it by the end of 2024.

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In August, 20 countries including Britain, Canada, France, Germany and several developing countries on the sharp end of the environmental crisis formed a “High Ambition Coalition To End Plastic Pollution” calling for the inclusion of global standards, bans and restrictions. in the treaty. on plastic.

Now the United States is trying to form its own group with a different approach, and has invited several countries to join, including Australia and Japan, the sources said.

A draft paper for his coalition, seen by Reuters, says “the development of national action plans” should be “the primary mechanism” for countries to contribute to the treaty, an approach environmentalists say won’t be robust enough to make it run away. to contain the problem.

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The US-led coalition aims to launch during or before the first round of treaty negotiations slated to take place in Uruguay from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, the draft document said.

The State Department has not immediately answered questions about the proposed coalition.

In an emailed statement, Monica Medina, the US official who led the treaty negotiations, said the country has committed to ending plastic pollution by 2040.

“The best way is through a Paris-style agreement that helps countries take ambitious action and hold them accountable, let them be innovative in finding solutions and lead to action now, not later,” she said.

The United States was a key architect of the land-driven approach to the Paris Agreement, a landmark international deal to limit global warming to at least 2 degrees Celsius. But that deal has been criticized for not having an enforcement mechanism, as countries have missed deadlines to step up their climate action.

Japan’s vice minister for global environment, Hiroshi Ono, said he was aware of a proposed coalition on plastics involving the United States, but declined to comment further. The Australian Environment Department said in a statement that it was aware of the formation of several coalitions, without elaborating further.

‘LIGHT TOUCH’

Environmentalists say measures taken by individual countries should be complemented by more top-down measures such as coordinated curbing of virgin plastic production and universal design standards to increase plastics’ recyclability.

Plastic production is: predict to double in the next 20 years, while the amount of plastic flowing into the ocean will triple. That will cause widespread environmental damage, destroy sensitive ecosystems and threaten some species with extinction, according to a study by the World Wildlife Fund.

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“We don’t need a treaty for countries to decide for themselves what their national actions should be. We need a treaty that can add to that,” said Eirik Lindebjerg, global plastics policy manager at WWF. “light touch.”

However, Ono, Japan’s environmental official, said the treaty cannot follow a “one-size-fits-all” approach, as countries have different “national circumstances” and “priorities” regarding upstream measures, such as plastic production, or downstream. measures. such as waste collection.

Calls for tougher global measures, such as those targeting plastic production, have also been met with resistance from the powerful oil and petrochemical companies that make plastic. Industry groups have lobbied governments, including the US, to reject any deal that would restrict plastic production, Reuters reported in February.

John Hocevar, a campaign manager for Greenpeace, and two other sources who requested anonymity, told Reuters that US officials had privately said they were wary of agreeing to global rules likely to be rejected by the divided Congress.

That’s why the United States is eager to pursue a Paris-style deal, the sources said, which didn’t need to be ratified by Congress because it relies largely on voluntary commitments based on state laws.

“If we work from the stance that we’re only going to negotiate what we can get at home, we’ll have lost before we’ve even started,” said Jane Patton, a US-based plastics and petrochemicals campaign manager at the Center. for International Environmental Law.

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Reporting by John Geddie and Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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