Participants discussed how plastic trade is affecting communities and the environment, as well as the role of trade policy in tackling the crisis.
Speakers highlighted discussions taking place in the Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade and decisions on plastic waste that were taken in 2019 at the BRS COP.
With negative impacts on marine ecosystems, land, climate, public health and sustainable development, plastic pollution has become a major concern. The urgency of addressing the global plastic pollution crisis is being increasingly recognised, as suggested by various recent initiatives in several international fora. A recent discussion on this topic, organised by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and the Forum on Trade, Environment, and the Sustainable Development Goals (TESS), discussed how plastic trade is affecting communities and the environment as well as the role of trade policy in tackling the crisis.
The event took place as part of IISD’s TRADE + SUSTAINABILITY HUB. The Hub took place from 1-3 December 2021, and convened over 50 partners, 150 speakers, and 1800 registered participants from civil society, government, business, and international organizations to discuss how to ensure trade policies contribute to sustainable development. The Hub was scheduled to coincide with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Twelfth Ministerial Conference and took place virtually despite the last-minute postponement of MC12.
It was recalled that plastic pollution of world oceans alone costs up to $2.2 trillion a year, affecting a wide range of industries, including fishing, agriculture, and tourism. At the WTO this year, a group of members launched an Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution and Environmentally Sustainable Plastics Trade (IDP) seeking to address the rising environmental, health and economic cost of plastics pollution. The group was expected to adopt a ministerial statement outlining its roadmap during the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, originally scheduled the first week of December 2021 before it was postponed due to the resurging global pandemic.
It is expected that the group’s roadmap of actions may include, inter alia: (i) sharing experience on data collection regarding trade flows and supply chains; (ii) strengthening cooperation with other international regulatory processes; and (iii) identifying environmentally sustainable trade policies and mechanisms.
Among other recent developments, Valentina Sierra from the Permanent Mission of Uruguay recalled that two key decisions on plastic waste were taken in 2019 during the meetings of the Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions. This included a partnership on plastic toys, as well as restricting rampant plastic waste exports by requiring countries to obtain prior informed consent before exporting contaminated or mixed plastic waste.
This article was authored by Ely Kanene, CUTS International