International Legally Binding Instrument on Plastics Pollution, including the Marine Environment
The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), in resolution 5/14 in March 2022, requested the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director to convene an intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastic.
This decision followed many years of increasing concern about this growing challenge and efforts to build consensus for how to address it at the global level.
In 1995, UNEP established the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities. Among its achievements was the launch of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter in 2012.
UNEA addressed this challenge beginning at its first meeting in 2014. UNEA 1 adopted a resolution recognizing the emerging global problem and requested that UNEP provide a report on marine plastic and microplastic at UNEA 2. In 2016, parties at UNEA 2 asked UNEP to produce an assessment of the effectiveness of global and regional governance strategies for marine plastics, and to support developing countries in combatting marine litter. In 2017, UNEA 3 reviewed the report on global and regional governance, which showed there is no existing global framework effectively dealing with marine litter and microplastic. In resolution 3/7, UNEA parties established an ad hoc open-ended expert group on marine litter and microplastics. The first meeting of the expert group convened in May 2018. The fourth and final meeting of the expert group convened in November 2020. The expert group considered a variety of options to control marine litter, including negotiating a new treaty on plastic pollution, or ramping up existing voluntary measures, such as the Group of 20’s (G20) Osaka Blue Ocean Vision and the Group of 7’s (G7) Ocean Plastics Charter.