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up to 20% of the entire global carbon budget21
accelerate the climate crisis.
Many of the necessary global actions to
tackle the plastic crisis are known, but
current initiatives lack the necessary scale
to drive systemic change, while regulatory
approaches have been heterogenous and
scattered, failing to target the fundamental
problem drivers. Leading organisations 22,23,24
have proposed circular economy approaches to
tackle the plastic crisis aiming to keep plastic
within the economy and out of the environment.
These approaches can effectively reduce the
negative impacts of plastic, including reducing
the annual volume of plastic entering oceans by
80% and GHG emissions by 25%.25
the financial and technical resources required to
undertake the overhaul in systems are preventing
governments from acting. At the same time, there
is currently no feedback loop from the adverse
aspects of the plastic system because the lifetime
cost of plastic is not fully accounted for in the
market price. Therefore, there is a lack of incentive
to implement the kinds of systemic changes
required. The lack of comprehensive data also
limits governments' understanding of the plastic
crisis and ability to make informed decisions.
Instead of taking a lifecycle approach, government
efforts have often only tackled one stage of the
plastic lifecycle or focused on a too narrow scope,
such as banning single-use plastic bags.26
The transboundary nature of plastic
requires a truly global response to
effectively tackle the crisis, however,
there is currently a notable lack of global
coordination in plastic action. Plastic is
transboundary in nature with the lifecycle of one
item often split across various countries. Extraction
of raw materials often happens in one country,
conversion into plastic products in another,
consumption in another, and waste management
in another. Plastic pollution is also not constrained
by national boundaries, because it migrates via
water and air currents and settles at the seafloor.
Therefore, a global response is needed to tackle the
global plastic crisis. However, there is currently
no global instrument established to specifically
prevent marine plastic pollution or tackle plastic
across its lifecycle.27
In recognition of these challenges, there are
growing calls from civil society, companies
and financial institutions to establish a new
global treaty on marine plastic pollution.
Such a treaty would enable governments to tackle
the plastic crisis and reduce the cost that plastic
imposes on society. A global treaty could provide
a well-designed framework encompassing global
coordination on definitions, policies, reporting,
and implementation support to accelerate the
transition to a circular economy for plastic.
If developed effectively, it will act as a legally
binding instrument that ensures accountability,
encouraging and enabling countries to take
the necessary steps to tackle the plastic crisis.
Seventy five leading companies from across the
plastics value chain have endorsed the Business
Call for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution28
More than 2.1 million people from around the
world have signed a WWF petition calling for
a global treaty on marine plastic pollution.29
Governments are beginning to respond. As of
August 2021, a majority of the UN member
states (104 countries) have explicitly called for a
new global agreement.30
For a new treaty to
be established, governments will have to
start negotiations through the adoption of
a formal negotiation mandate at the 5th
session of the UN Environment Assembly in
February 2022.
IN 2019 WILL


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