Delegates from around the world have gathered in Kenya, aiming to advance discussions toward a groundbreaking treaty to combat plastic pollution on a global scale.
During the opening day of discussions in Nairobi on Monday, Kenyan President William Ruto emphasized that there is a limited timeframe to finalize an agreement before the end of 2023, a deadline established in March of the previous year.
“I urge all the negotiators to recall that 2024 is only six weeks away and [there] are only two other meetings to go,” Ruto said.
At the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters, leaders are gathering to confront the global issue of pollution stemming from over 400 million metric tonnes of plastic waste annually.
The UNEP notes that less than 10 percent of plastic waste is recycled, with at least 14 million metric tonnes entering the world’s oceans, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Progress has been slow at previous summits, and delegates in Nairobi will have to decide between a wider focus on the production and life cycle of plastic or a more limited emphasis on waste management.
Kenya and other nations are pushing for a robust and binding agreement in the ongoing talks, while influential players like the plastics industry and petrochemical suppliers, including Saudi Arabia, are advocating for a more restricted approach.
Over 2,000 delegates, spanning the oil and gas industry, environmental organizations, and civil society groups, are participating in the conference.
“The vast majority of countries are eager to advance the negotiations to get the job done,” said Pamela Miller, co-chairperson of the International Pollutants Elimination Network, a global public interest group.
“On the other hand, a small group of like-minded countries of mainly major fossil fuel, petrochemical and plastic exporters like Saudi Arabia and Russia are actively attempting to take us backwards,” she said.