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Towards a 75% reduction in plastic production by 2050: Surfrider Foundation calls for an ambitious treaty on plastic pollution

The second session of international negotiations on the treaty to end plastic pollution will take place from the 29th of May to the 2nd of June 2023 in Paris. The aim is to outline the international treaty expected in 2024. In the run-up to this event, Surfrider Foundation Europe, together with Zero Waste France, calls for the adoption of an ambitious and binding treaty through a series of proposals addressed to France and other States.

Plastic is ubiquitous in our society: almost every object in our daily lives contains it, from our clothes and vehicles to the packaging of the products we consume.
More than 400 million tonnes of plastic are produced every year, and many organisations predict that this figure will double by 2040.
However, from the extraction of the raw materials needed for its manufacture to its end-of-life, plastic has a considerable impact on biodiversity, the climate, health and human rights:

– Every year, it is estimated that at least 14 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean (source: IUCN, 2021), with irreversible impacts on marine biodiversity.
– The cost of environmental damage caused by plastic pollution in marine ecosystems is estimated at 13 billion US dollars (source: UNEP).
– Around 12,000 toxic chemicals are used in packaging and other materials likely migrating into our food and impacting our health.

In light of this, and thanks to the advocacy work carried out by various NGOs (notably the GAIA global network and the Break Free From Plastic movement, of which Surfrider Foundation is a member), in February 2022 the 175 countries taking part in the 5th United Nations Assembly adopted a resolution aimed at putting in place a “legally binding international instrument” to put an end to plastic pollution.

There will be 5 rounds of negotiations, the second being held in France, in Paris, from the 29th of May to the 2nd of June 2023.
During this phase, the governments will discuss the fundamental obligations included in the text, as well as the measures required to implement these. The objective is to reach a first outline of the treaty that is as ambitious as possible, in order to provide a firm basis for the 3rd round of negotiations.

This second round of negotiations will be an opportunity for the High Ambition Coalition, made up of 53 states including the European Union and its members, to put forward an ambitious stance for a legally binding treaty covering the entire plastic life cycle. The objective is not only to limit the production and consumption of plastics, but also to develop the circular economy of plastics to protect health and the environment, and to develop sustainable management and recycling of plastic waste.

The role of the EU is fundamental here: whilst it is being held up as an example for its legislation on plastics, it will also be responsible for voting on behalf of all its Member States.

Like the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty on plastics could be one of the most important environmental agreements in history. It is therefore vital that the European Union and France seize this opportunity to rise to the challenge and position themselves at the forefront of the fight against plastic pollution, not only in terms of regulation but also in terms of implementation.

To ensure a high level of ambition and a significant reduction in plastic pollution at source, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste are proposing a series of recommendations to the Member States, focusing on two main areas:

– Setting a global target of reducing plastic production by 75% by 2050,
– Guaranteeing respect for human rights and social and environmental justice throughout the plastics value chain, limiting impacts on health and the environment to a minimum.

The proposals presented, organised around the 3 life phases of plastics, will have to be controlled and monitored by Member States, in particular through the collection of data on plastics. A series of indicators will also have to be put in place to assess the efforts required to reach the global objectives defined upstream and re-evaluated every 5 years.

Download the full recommendations document

With only a few days to go before the start of this second round of negotiations, Surfrider Foundation Europe is calling on the French government to stand by its strong commitment to a drastic reduction in plastic products and to reject the false solutions that are fuelling the status quo (bioplastics or recycling). To this end, it could seize the proposals put forward by the two associations in order to steer the treaty towards the most ambitious version possible.

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