A group of Nordic nations kicked off a campaign Oct. 19 for a global treaty to regulate plastics, comparing it to efforts to build international agreements around climate change, biodiversity and toxic chemicals.
Envisioning a sort of Paris climate accord for plastics, the eight-member Nordic Council argues in a new report that current national and international efforts can't handle the growth in plastic production and they see a new global treaty setting targets for plastics sustainability around the world.
"Right now, we are witnessing a dramatic surge in plastic pollution," said Lea Wermelin, Denmark's environment minister. "With global population levels rising and consumption patterns changing, current estimates show that production levels of plastic will double by 2040. … The frameworks at hand are not sufficient to deal with our current problems with plastic pollution."
While the Nordic Council represents only a small part of the globe, the idea of a worldwide treaty has support from more than 100 countries, according to Sveinung Rotevatn, Norway's minister of climate and environment, in an online briefing to announce the Nordic effort.
"We see a mounting support from all corners of the world towards the [goal] of negotiating a global agreement," Rotevatn said. "Last year alone, the Nordic countries, the Caribbean countries, the Pacific Islands, the [European Union] and the African groups representing over 110 countries all issued public statements in support of exploring the global agreement."
He is also chair of the next session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, currently scheduled for February in Kenya. Advocates for the treaty are pushing for negotiations to start in earnest at that gathering.
Other efforts to push global or regional frameworks around plastics have sometimes met skepticism.
The United States, for example, at the last UNEA meeting in 2019 argued against what it said were overly prescriptive proposals around single-use plastics and microplastics.
The U.S. said at the time that efforts should focus on waste management in Asian countries identified as the biggest sources of plastics in the oceans and that it was worried about unintended consequences of targeting plastics.