Finally, the US is prepared to sign up to a global treaty to fight plastic pollution in our oceans

While more than two thirds of countries have come out in support of starting negotiations for a new global plastics agreement, the U.S. has been noticeably absent in its position on the issue until now. 

During a visit to Kenya the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally announced US support for a world-wide agreement to “combat ocean plastic pollution” at the UN Environmental Assembly next year.

We have been working tirelessly with NGOs around the world to produce briefings, meet with country delegations and present our recommendations to meetings hosted in the context of the United Nations discussions on plastics to build a comprehensive case for action.

As the David to the US Goliath, our team has had to contend with a huge lobbying presence simultaneously working the corridors of Washington, of which ‘big plastic’ is no small part, to ensure that an ambitious global agreement which looks at the full life cycle of plastic is considered.

“To use President Biden’s words, this announcement is a big ****** deal but it also raises a lot of questions about what is under the hood,” said Senior Lawyer, EIA, Tim Grabiel. “We call on the US to support a comprehensive and ambitious global agreement by adding its name to the long list of co-sponsors of the draft resolution authored by Rwanda and Peru.”

The importance of the US coming on board cannot be overstated. The biggest producers of plastic are US petrochemical giants, such as ExxonMobil and Dow, and in recent years as the world turns away from fossil fuels, big oil companies turn to plastics to stay in business, with plans to invest at least $400 billion in expanding plastics production by 2024.

The plastic pollution crisis will not be addressed without bringing the major producing, consuming and exporting countries to the negotiating table.

The news today (18/11/2021) is a welcome feather in the cap for the movement towards a treaty on plastic pollution. EIA will now be working through our advocacy channels to ensure that the U.S demonstrates their level of commitment by co-sponsoring the draft resolution from Rwanda and Peru under consideration at UNEA-5.2, which proposes a comprehensive and ambitious approach that addresses the full lifecycle of plastics.

While EIA take this moment to welcome this new show of support, we must remain vigilant that the commitment includes extending the view of plastic pollution beyond just the frame of ocean impacts and also recognises the role that sustainable production and consumption of plastics must play in any future agreement.