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U.S. joins France in push for global treaty to cut ocean plastic pollution

Pandemic waste polluting oceans
More than 57 million pounds of pandemic waste polluting oceans 07:28

United Nations – The United Nations, the U.S. and France have set their sights on forging an ambitious U.N. treaty to reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the world's oceans. They're hoping to get other nations to sign onto a deal modeled on the 2015 Paris climate pact.
"Plastic waste is choking the seas," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video message delivered Friday to a global summit  in France on the state of the world's oceans.
National delegations will start negotiating to establish staffing and the agenda for a plastics treaty at the U.N.'s Environment Assembly in Nairobi from February 28-March 2, but the U.S. and France lost no time, announcing on Friday at the three-day "One Oceans Summit" in Brest, on France's coast, their intention to cut plastic pollution.

"With rising waters, coastal landfills are threatening to release their waste into the sea," French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday. 
The White House said in a statement the two nations "are committed to protecting our environment for future generations," announcing negotiations with France to promote a "global agreement to address the full lifecycle of plastics."
"The agreement should include binding and non-binding commitments, call on countries to develop and implement ambitious national action plans, and foster robust engagement of stakeholders to contribute toward the agreement's objectives while complementing national government contributions," the White House said. 

Other aspects of ocean protection were being discussed at the One Oceans Summit, as well as at other upcoming conferences. The U.N. will meet June 27-July 1 in Lisbon, Portugal, and coral reefs will be the focus of the "Our Ocean" conference, sponsored by the U.S. and the Republic of Palau from April 13-14.

"The 'One Ocean Summit' in France is the first in a series of ocean action meetings in 2022 that we hope will stop the decline in the ocean's health this year … urgent action is required," Peter Thomson, U.N. Secretary General's Special Envoy for the Ocean, told CBS News. 

The flurry of meetings on the human impact on the oceans is a result of the increasingly apparent urgency of the problem, and because the coronavirus pandemic has largely curbed international gatherings for the past two years.
Experts from the U.S. say that at least 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enters the world's oceans each year — the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck of plastic waste into the ocean every minute, according to the report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in December.
The National Academies report said that as far back as 2016, "the U.S. generated more plastic waste than any other country, exceeding that of all European Union member states combined."
The U.N. plan is to try to negotiate a plastics treaty in just two years, which would be record speed for any global accord, according to Inger Anderson, the executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme.
The U.N.'s estimate is even higher than the U.S.'s numbers: "We currently dump 11 million metric tons of plastic into the ocean each year, and this figure is projected to double by 2030 and nearly triple by 2040."
"Even people that don't live near a coast, they have seen pictures of sea turtles with plastic choking him… they've seen examples of the plastics that are in necks of seabirds," Susan Gardner, director of UNEP's Ecosystem Division, told CBS News.

"People really understand that when you see plastic on the beach of a remote desert island coming from far away, that we're all contributing to that problem."

The European Union's Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries said at a U.N. press conference last week COVID-19 had stalled talks needed to clean up the oceans. "This year must be the year of the oceans," said Virginijus Sinkevičius. "This year must be the year of biodiversity… it is essential to get plastics under control and the only way to do it is globally." 

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