Swiss back creation of global body on plastic pollution

The fifth UN Environmental Assembly is set to take place in Kenya starting February 28. Keystone / Nic Bothma

Some 15 countries, including Switzerland, have proposed the creation of a “Science-Policy Panel” to deal with the threat of chemical waste and plastic pollution. This comes ahead of discussions on a global plastics treaty at the UN Environmental Assembly in Kenya starting on February 28.

This content was published on February 19, 2022 - 15:20

“This (proposal) would bring together, like with climate change, the best available science to better understand the threats and risks that we do not fully understand yet,” Switzerland's Ambassador Franz Xaver Perrez, who is representing Bern at the summit in Kenya, told Reuters. The proposal aims to create an authoritative body similar to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that would study the dangers of chemical waste and pollution.

Perrez warned that chemical waste represented a “more imminent” threat than climate change. A UN report published last week revealed that pollution by states and companies is contributing to more deaths globally than Covid-19.

With climate change “the bigger impact is in the future,” Perrez said. “But the chemicals impact is the immediate future, it's right now.” There’s currently no global body to assess the scale of the risks.

The proposal is co-sponsored by 14 other countries including the United Kingdom and six African countries. Perrez said the panel could be set up within “one to two years” under the oversight of the Geneva-based World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme.

The main focus of the UN summit in Kenya is the drafting of a global treaty to reduce plastic pollution, which experts say would be the most important environmental pact since the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. There are currently two competing draft resolutions for a treaty. Switzerland has said it supports the stronger version, which would cover all plastic pollution. The weaker version, put forward by Japan, only covers marine pollution.

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