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Global agreement to combat flood of plastic within reach

Plastikmüll am Strand
A legally binding UN agreement to halt the pollution of the environment and oceans with plastic waste is a top priority of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA).

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke welcomes agreement at UNEA 5.2 in Nairobi

This week, Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke is taking part in the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. A legally binding UN agreement to end plastic pollution of the environment and oceans is at the heart of negotiations. To this end, an intergovernmental negotiating committee will be established to flesh out a global agreement by 2024. The preliminary negotiations at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi over the weekend agreed on the draft resolution "End Plastic Pollution – Towards a Legally Binding Agreement" and set out key points regarding the new agreement’s scope of application and level of ambition. The draft resolution is to be adopted on 2 March during the UNEA plenary by the delegates of all countries.

Minister Lemke commented: "Ours oceans are overflowing with waste. The pollution of oceans with vast quantities of plastic is a serious environmental problem that is harming animals, plants and humans. This topic is therefore rightly the focus of UNEA-5. We have worked hard with like-minded countries from all over the world to take this crucial, globally agreed step to tackle the flood of plastic: a mandate for an intergovernmental negotiating committee to draw up an agreement within a few years on reducing marine litter and environmental pollution. This is a major achievement. In Germany and at European and international level, I will advocate strict and binding regulations on plastic litter and marine protection. It is good that UNEA-5 is highlighting the importance of an intact natural environment. The new German government is committed to an ambitious global biodiversity framework. Moreover, we want to make even more effective use of the synergies between climate action, nature conservation and resource conservation. I am therefore delighted that UNEA is also looking at nature-based solutions."

The draft resolution "End Plastic Pollution – Towards a Legally Binding Agreement" envisages a convention that takes account of the entire life cycle of plastic products and thus comprehensively addresses the issue of plastic pollution, including microplastics, in the environment and oceans. In this context, the draft resolution emphasises the importance of sustainable circular economy and increasing resource efficiency to improve circularity in the plastics sector.

This holistic approach was a key objective of the German government, which in recent years has been working with a broad alliance of African, Latin American, Asian and European countries to advance a global agreement of this nature.

Another focus of this year’s UN Environment Assembly is nature conservation. It is planned that over the coming days environment ministers will also adopt draft resolutions on the topics of biodiversity and health, and the application of nature-based solutions to support climate action. It is hoped that this will provide additional input for the upcoming 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP), also taking place this year.

The UN Environment Assembly is the highest UN decision-making body on environmental matters and sets the priorities for global environmental policy. This year, the UN Environment Assembly will be combined with a celebration marking the 50th anniversary of the UN Environment Programme. Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke will arrive with the German delegation in Nairobi on Tuesday 1 March 2022. The Minister will take part in the events listed below (times given are CET, Kenya is CET +2). The UN events are open to the press and will be streamed live on the UNEP website.

Wednesday 2 March 2022

  • 11.30 am Flag Ship side event on global convention on plastic and marine litter
  • 1 pm Closing Plenary of UNEA-5 high-level segment, which is expected to adopt the UN mandate to negotiate a global convention on plastic
  • 4.15 pm Introductory speech at UNEA side event of the German Environment Agency “Accelerating Action towards a Sustainable Planet in the Digital Age”

Thursday 3 March 2022

  • 12.30 pm Kick-off event of the new initiative “Biodiversity for Health and Pandemic Prevention Multi-Partner Trust Fund”, supported by the IKI (International Climate Initiative)
  • 1 pm Minister Lemke will give a national statement (25th speaker) during the UNEP 50th anniversary celebratory event "Strengthening UNEP for the implementation of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”
01.03.2022 | Press release No. 021/22
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