Here at The Ocean Foundation, we are beyond hopeful and optimistic about the recent decision of Member States participating in the Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA5). There are 193 government members to UNEA, and we participated as an accredited non-governmental organization. Member States officially agreed on a mandate calling for the beginning of negotiations on a global treaty to combat plastic pollution. 

For the last two weeks, TOF was on the ground in Nairobi at the United Nations’ headquarters attending the negotiation discussions and meeting with stakeholders from various sectors including industry, government, and NGOs, to inform this treaty process with our expertise and perspective on the plastic pollution crisis (including, at times, late into the night).

TOF has been involved in international negotiations on a number of ocean and climate issues for the past 20 years. We understand that garnering agreement among governments, industry, and the environmental non-profit community takes years. But not all organizations and perspectives are welcomed inside the right rooms. So, we take our accredited status very seriously – as an opportunity to be a voice for many who share our perspectives in the fight against plastic pollution.

We are particularly hopeful about the following highlights of the negotiations:

  • A call for the first international negotiating committee (“INC”) to take place fairly immediately, in the second half of 2022
  • The agreement to have a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution
  • The inclusion of “microplastics” in the description of plastic pollution
  • Early language mentioning the role of design and considering the full life cycle of plastics
  • The recognition of waste pickers’ roles in prevention

While we celebrate these high points as an exciting step toward progress to conserve the environment, we encourage member states to continue to discuss:

  • Key definitions, targets, and methodologies
  • Connecting the global plastic pollution challenge to climate change and the role of fossil fuels in plastic production
  • Perspectives on how to address upstream factors
  • An approach and process on implementation and compliance

In the coming months, TOF will continue to engage internationally to pursue policies that aim to stop the flow of plastic waste into the environment. We’re taking this moment to celebrate the fact that governments have come to an agreement: an agreement that plastic pollution is a threat to the health of our planet, its people, and its ecosystems – and it requires global action. We look forward to continuing to work with governments and stakeholders in this treaty process. And we hope to keep the momentum high for combating plastic pollution.