Fuel for Thought
UN Could Incentivise Circular Plastics, says Director
Mar 24 2022
Recently, at the fifth session of the United Nations’ Environment Assembly in Nairobi, it was announced that 175 member-states had committed to reaching an international, legally-binding agreement by 2024 to end plastics pollution. Considering the extent of the problem, which some geologists believe warrants a re-classification of our era as ‘the Plasticene’, the Executive Director of the United Nations’ Environment Programme, Inger Anderson, is adamant that the agreement is ‘the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris Accord.’
And it’s a highly ambitious timeframe. If drastic change is the name of the game, the United Nations will need to encourage and support industry.
‘Whatever the modalities arrived at by countries,’ says Anderson, ‘it is critical that they create sufficient incentives for multiple stakeholders to benefit from a new global plastics circular economy.’ Of course, as Anderson indicates, these incentives will have to be worked out during the two-year-long deliberations between signatory-nations, so, as yet, there’s no telling exactly what shape the financial infrastructure will take. But, Anderson emphasises, it is coming.
‘What will be key is to scale up the innovations needed to help companies make the transition to a circular economy,’ Anderson suggests. ‘Concessional financing in the form of debt, equity or guarantee financing could help catalyze the shift for businesses.’
Clearly, however, support for industry can’t be limited to financing, as many businesses face an unprecedently-daunting technical challenge, as well. Indeed, independent of funding, bridging this gap in knowledge will be the deciding factor in meeting whatever targets are established in 2024.
The Executive Director of the UNEP is crystal-clear on this point. ‘UNEP will work with any willing government and business across the value chain to shift away from single-use plastics, as well as to mobilise private finance and remove barriers to investments,’ says Anderson.
It seems, too, that the UNEP already have their allies. Recently, the International Council of Chemical Associations and the World Plastics Council co-authored a recognition of the need for global action on plastics pollution, which outlined a set of detailed demands, including the development of guidance and innovations in product design – and the ICCA are exactly the sort of organisation that industry will need in the years ahead. Similarly, a strident manifesto has been published in support of a global treaty on plastic pollution, with high-pedigree signatories like The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Unilever, Nestlé, and Starbucks, not to mention a slew of financial institutions, including Aviva Investors and BNP Paribas, ready to provide the sort of infrastructure to which Anderson alluded.
For regular updates and information on the plastics and other petrochemical industries, stay right here on Petro Online.
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