French President Emmanuel Macron warns that global plastic pollution is a 'time bomb' as delegates begin five days of talks in Paris aimed at reaching an international treaty to end plastic waste.
Representatives of 175 nations with divergent ambitions met at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on Monday for the second of five sessions with the aim of signing a historic agreement covering the entire plastics life cycle.
The French president urged nations to put an end to today's "globalised and unsustainable" production model.
"Plastic pollution is a time-bomb and at the same time already a scourge today," said Emmanuel Macron in a video message in which he called for an end to a system where richer countries export plastic waste to poorer ones.
He added that the first priorities of the negotiations should be to reduce the production of plastics based on fossil fuel and to ban "as soon as possible" the most polluting products like single-use plastics.
Also taking part in the negotiations are NGOs, representatives of plastic companies and lobbyists, much to the annoyance of environmentalists.
In February 2022, nations agreed in principle on the need for a legally binding UN treaty to end plastic pollution around the world, setting an ambitious 2024 deadline.
Host country France organised a ministerial summit on Saturday with 60 countries to kick-start the talks.
"If we don't act now, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans", said French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.
The stakes are high, given that annual plastics production has more than doubled in 20 years to 460 million tonnes, and is on track to triple within four decades.
Two-thirds of this output is discarded after being used once or a few times, and winds up as waste. More than a fifth is dumped or burned illegally, and less than 10 per cent is recycled.
Policy actions to be debated during the talks include a global ban on single-use plastic items, "polluter pays" schemes, and a tax on new plastic production.
Environmental groups are encouraged that global plastics pollution is finally being tackled but are concerned the treaty may not include targets to reduce overall plastic production.