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Global Plastic Treaty, Need, Challenges and India’s Stand

Context: Recently the fourth round of negotiations of the Global Plastic Treaty was concluded.

Global Plastic Treaty Overview

  • The Global Plastics Treaty, supported by at least 175 United Nations member nations, aims to curtail the use of plastics through a legally binding document.
  • The treaty’s objectives include setting timelines to reduce plastic production, eliminate wasteful uses, ban harmful chemicals involved in plastic production, and establish recycling targets.
  • The goal is to finalise this treaty by the end of 2024.

Check here the impact of Plastic Pollution in detail!

Need for a Global Plastics Treaty

  • Plastic pollution is a global crisis:
    • Production skyrocketed from 2 million tonnes in 1950 to 450 million tonnes in 2019.
    • Expected to double by 2050 and triple by 2060.
    • Less than 10% of plastic waste is recycled.
    • 6 billion tonnes currently pollute the planet.
    • 400 million tonnes of plastic waste generated annually (projected 62% increase by 2050).

Global Plastic Treaty, Need, Challenges and India's Stand_4.1

  • Plastic harms ecosystems and human health:
    • Breaks down into microplastics containing harmful chemicals.
    • Disrupts human hormones and is linked to cancer, diabetes, and reproductive disorders.
  • Plastic production contributes to climate change:
    • Generates 1.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually (3.4% of global emissions).
    • Projected 20% increase in emissions from plastic production by 2050.

Challenges to the Global Plastic Treaty

  • Opposition from Oil-Producing Countries and Industry Groups: Countries with significant oil and gas interests, like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran, along with fossil fuel and chemical industry groups, are trying to limit the scope of the treaty.
    • They prefer focusing on plastic waste management and recycling rather than imposing caps on plastic production.
A coalition of African countries, with support from several European nations, advocates for a definitive timeline around 2040 for reducing plastic usage.
  • Procedural Disagreements: There have been numerous delays due to disagreements over procedural issues, such as the decision-making process for the treaty.
    • The choice between achieving consensus (which allows any single country to veto the treaty) versus majority voting remains unresolved, complicating the negotiations.
  • Industry Lobbying: The chemical and fossil fuel industries have sent a record number of lobbyists to the negotiation sessions.
    • These lobbyists work to weaken the treaty’s provisions, emphasising that the crisis is more about waste management than reducing plastic production itself.
  • Lack of Consensus Among Countries: While a coalition of around 65 nations (the High Ambition Coalition) is pushing for comprehensive measures to tackle plastic pollution, other countries, notably the United States, advocate for voluntary steps rather than mandatory actions, reflecting a broader lack of consensus on the treaty’s goals and methods.

India’s Position for Treaty

  • India, while not opposed to the treaty, insists that it must include provisions for the availability, accessibility, and affordability of alternatives.
  • India’s stance reflects the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ often discussed in climate agreements, which argues that while all countries should meet common targets, wealthier nations should assume greater responsibilities and provide support to less affluent ones.

Domestic Actions in India

  • In 2022, India implemented the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules (2021), which banned 19 types of single-use plastics.
  • The ban does not cover plastic bottles under 200 ml and multi-layered packaging such as milk cartons.
  • Enforcement of this ban is inconsistent across the country, with many outlets still selling the banned items.

Global Impact of Plastic Pollution

  • The global distribution of plastic pollution is heavily skewed, with Brazil, China, India, and the U.S. contributing to 60% of the world’s plastic waste.
  • Addressing plastic pollution effectively requires significant investment in developing affordable alternatives to current plastic products.

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I, Sakshi Gupta, am a content writer to empower students aiming for UPSC, PSC, and other competitive exams. My objective is to provide clear, concise, and informative content that caters to your exam preparation needs. I strive to make my content not only informative but also engaging, keeping you motivated throughout your journey!

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