Negotiators have been given a broad mandate to target plastic trash in all its forms — not just bottles and straws in the ocean, but invisible microplastics polluting the air, soil and food chain.
The United Nations has agreed to start negotiating a world-first global treaty on plastic pollution in what has been hailed a watershed moment for the planet.
Nearly 200 nations at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi unanimously agreed on Wednesday to create an intergovernmental committee to negotiate and finalise a legally binding plastics treaty by 2024.
"We are making history today. You should all be proud," Espen Barthe Eide, Norway's climate and environment minister and UNEA chair, told delegates as the assembly erupted in cheers and applause.
Negotiators have been given a broad mandate to target plastic trash in all its forms - not just bottles and straws in the ocean, but invisible microplastics polluting the air, soil and food chain.
The scope covers the entire life cycle of plastic and could introduce new rules on production, the redesign of products for easier recycling, sustainable use and better waste disposal.
The mandate allows for binding and voluntary measures and provides for the negotiation of global targets and obligations, the development of national action plans, and mechanisms for tracking progress and ensuring accountability.
It also calls for financial assistance to help poorer countries take action.
The broad treaty framework approved by nations - among them major plastic producers like the US and China - does not spell out specific policies, with particulars to be negotiated later.
Diplomats and conservationists hailed the start of negotiations as a milestone for the environment but cautioned that the strength of any treaty would only be determined in talks to come.
The first round of negotiations is expected to begin in the second half of the year.