There's growing consensus that a plastics treaty should address human health and environmental concerns around microplastics.
At least that was the view at a Jan. 10 webinar organized by several Scandinavian governments, held to review a report they released charting how the treaty should deal with microplastics.
Erlend Draget, a senior adviser to Norway's climate ministry and organizer of that country's negotiations for the plastics treaty, said he's seen a big change in the last year in openness to include microplastics and human health concerns in the treaty.
In March, for example, at the meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly that endorsed starting the treaty talks, microplastics were a controversial topic. But by the time the first actual negotiations opened in Uruguay in late November, that was no longer the case, he said.
"At UNEA, there was great controversy in having clear references to the risk to human health posed by microplastics and plastic pollution, which made it difficult to have even a brief mention … in that resolution," Draget said. "But then coming into Uruguay we heard no one posing any critical questions about whether this link was firmly established and scientifically established.
"Almost all countries that we heard [in Uruguay] said that this should be the objective with this plastics treaty, to protect the environment but also to the human health, from plastic pollution," he said. "And microplastics is obviously an integral part of the risk to human health."
Norway has been a key country in the negotiations, with the Norwegian government organizing a coalition of "high ambition" countries urging a strong treaty. As well, its environment minister chaired the UNEA meeting that launched the treaty negotiations.
The webinar reviewed a report, "Addressing Microplastics in a Global Agreement on Plastics Pollution," prepared for the Nordic Council of Ministers, a body that coordinates policy among nine Scandinavian and northern European countries.
"Microplastics is very important for all the Nordic countries, as well as Norway," Draget said. "We need to have a plastics treaty that is effective at closing those leakage points."