UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi targets plastic waste

  • 2019-03-12
  • AFP/BNS/TBT Staff

NAIROBI - Countries from around the world set their sights Monday on a pivotal deal to curb plastic waste at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.

Thousands of delegates, business leaders and campaigners are in Nairobi for the five-day UN Environment Assembly, the top annual forum on the planet's environmental crisis, AFP reports.

The UN wants individual countries to sign up to "significantly" reduce plastic production, including a phasing out of single-use plastics by 2030 -- a goal inspired by the 2015 Paris Agreement on voluntary reductions of carbon emissions. 

"In the field of (plastic) pollution we don't have such agreements," Siim Kiisler, UN Environment Assembly president and Estonia's environment minister, told journalists as the gathering got underway. "This is the first time (we have) to convince member states to make international commitments." 

A landmark report due out this week is expected to ram home the warning of the threat to ecosystems from rampant plastic and chemical waste.

The world currently produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastics annually, and there are at least five trillion plastic pieces floating in our oceans, scientists have estimated.

"Plastic is a very good material, it's durable, flexible and light," Kiisler said. "This means we should make the best out of it for as long as possible instead of disposing of it."

The conference started on a somber note after an Ethiopian Airlines jet crashed on Sunday, killing all 157 on board, many of whom were heading to the event.

The One Planet Summit on Thursday will bring together heads of state including French President Emmanuel Macron and Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta to lend political clout to the process.

Kiisler said it was a critical time for action to protect and reverse the degradation of our planet.

"We are not going fast enough," he told reporters. "Today we are talking about declarations and commitments but I believe in the future we need some international legislation in place."