Towards a global agreement to combat marine plastic pollution

As a member state of the United Nations, Aotearoa New Zealand is working with other countries on a global agreement to combat marine plastic litter and plastic pollution.

The issue

The flow of plastic litter and plastic pollution into the marine environment is a growing global problem.

Plastic pollution has significant environmental, health, social, and economic impacts. 

By 2050 plastic production is expected to grow to 1,600 million tonnes per year. This is up from from 407 million tonnes in 2015. It would amount to around 5.6 times the weight of all humans.

Towards a global agreement

At the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) from 28 February to 2 March 2022, countries across the world agreed to work towards a new global agreement on combatting marine plastic litter and plastic pollution.

The mandate agreed at UNEA-5.2 to negotiate a global agreement is consistent with New Zealand’s domestic work on plastic. The development of a global agreement will cover the full life cycle of plastics from production to disposal and will include microplastics in its scope. The International Negotiating Committee is expected to complete its work by the end of 2024.

The summary report of the UNEA’s Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics [UNEA website] identifies a range of potential options to address the marine plastic litter problem.

What could be in an agreement 

Core elements of a global agreement are likely to include a: 

  • shared global goal/common long-term vision to the plastic pollution problem 
  • common approach to national action plans covering the life cycle of plastics 
  • mechanism to harmonise reporting and monitoring of actions and effects of measures 
  • financial mechanism to deliver technical support and capacity building 
  • science and knowledge mechanism to provide access to quality-assured information for stakeholders at all levels. 

The overall scope, level of ambition, and nature of commitments of a global agreement all remain subject to negotiations. 

About Aotearoa New Zealand’s participation

Taking action on plastic waste is an important step in Aotearoa New Zealand’s journey to a low-waste economy with an effective resource recovery and recycling system.

In the negotiations of an international plastics treaty, Aotearoa New Zealand will be guided by principles of:

Our other international action on marine litter and plastic pollution

Aotearoa New Zealand has also endorsed the: 

We are also members of a range of other international groups to reduce plastic pollution such as the:

Get in touch

If you have any questions or would like to provide feedback throughout this process, please get in touch with us at UNPlasticsTreaty@mfe.govt.nz

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