Rwanda Makes Case for ‘Global Fund’ to Help End Plastic Pollution

Rwanda is advocating a ‘global multilateral fund’ that will finance efforts by countries in ending plastic pollution by 2040.

The proposed fund is a global Treaty on plastic pollution to end plastic pollution that is being drafted.

The idea to develop a global treaty to end plastic pollution was initiated by Rwanda and later supported by Peru before it was passed as a resolution at the United Nations Environment Assembly held in Nairobi, in March.

The process to draft and negotiate the treaty will take two years.

The aim is to eliminate plastic waste upstream during production and downstream during waste management.

On December 8, 2022 on the sidelines of the World Circular Economy forum in Kigali, Rwanda and Norway are holding a “High Ambition Coalition to end plastic pollution” event to share information about the way forward to end plastic pollution by 2040.

Rwanda banned plastic bags in 2008 and single use plastics in 2019.

Rwanda and Norway are co-chairs of the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution which was launched in August, 2022.

The High Ambition Coalition, launched on Monday August 22, 2022 was first initiated following the historic UN Environment Assembly resolution passed in March 2022 to start negotiations of an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution.

Over 50 countries have so far joined the coalition.

Juliet Kabera, the Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), who is also Rwanda’s representative on the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, said that the proposed treaty could stop the fragmented approach on the management of plastics.

“We all have national laws, regulations, actions around the circular economy on the management of waste but we still have leakage and scientific publication that shows us that in the near future we are going to have more plastics in the ocean than the fish we have there. That is why we took an initiative to have a treaty that stops fragmented approach on the management of plastics,” she said.

She said that preventing further leakage in the environment needs a lifecycle approach.

“We are looking at plastics from the production level to know how much we are producing, how we are controlling the production as well as leakage of plastics,” she said, stressing the need to also recycle plastics that are leaked.

Plastic consumption is projected to skyrocket in the coming decades, from 460 million tonnes in 2019 to 1,231 million tonnes in 2060.

The most significant sectors driving consumption are packaging, vehicles and construction which will make up 2/3 of all use.

More than 140 million tons of plastic waste has already accumulated in rivers, lakes and oceans over the last 70 years.

Kabera made the case for the fund to finance a transition toward ending plastic pollution.

“For all these to work we shall have an enabling environment, financing mechanism. The financial mechanism we are talking about is a dedicated fund to end plastic pollution. We need a dedicated fund because it has worked very well in Montreal protocol.

We have seen a dedicated fund on phasing down ozone depleting substances and we want to learn from that model because we have seen it worked. There are other models to learn from. There is GEF, Adaptation Fund. We are advocating for fund to end plastic pollution,” she said.

Governments, business community, NGOs among other stakeholders are needed to achieve the ambition.

“Everyone is needed in this process,” she noted.

According to Terhi Lehtonen, vice Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Ministry of the Environment, Finland, ending plastic pollution is at the core of the circular economy transition.

“I thank Rwanda and Norway for the leadership of the High Ambition Coalition. We are aware that plastic production and consumption have reached levels that are completely unsustainable,” she said, raising over fragmented tolls to address leakage of plastics in the environment.

She said the world will not manage the increasing volumes of plastic waste and leakage in the environment if the treaty to end plastic pollution is not adopted.

“Plastic pollution contributes to the planetary crisis. It will lead to biodiversity loss and significant adverse effects on human health,” she noted.

Lehtonen said that to support the global shift to a circular economy, she said, there is a need for looking at the whole value chain of plastics and addressing all lifecycle stages.

Need for inclusive and strong participation in negotiations

She said that the efforts of the public and private sector are needed in the drive from product design to sustainable ways of management.

“It is not something we can achieve at national level only. Finland is very committed to the negotiations on a legally binding global agreement on plastic pollution. Last week the first meeting of the intergovernmental negotiating committee was held in Uruguay.

Finland was pleased to see strong participation of stakeholders in the meeting. We believe a broad participation into the negotiations is key to an efficient and ambitious agreement. Finland is committed to working together with committee members and stakeholders in a high ambition coalition,” she noted.

Finland committed to end plastic pollution by 2040.

She said to end plastic pollution, plastic products need to be reusable and recyclable plastic materials.

“We believe it would be very important to set up international sustainability criteria which the government should commit to. We also need transparency in the global value chain of plastic,” Lehtonen.

She said that earlier this year Finland updated a programme on plastics roadmap.

The Plastics Roadmap for Finland 2.0 is an extensive national programme that aims for a breakthrough in the circular economy of plastics by 2030.

The first stage of the programme started in 2018 and the programme was updated in the early part of 2022.

Kristin Hughes, the director of the resource circularity pillar and a member of the World Economic Forum’s executive committee said that there is a need for an ambitious framework to end plastic pollution.

She said there must be inclusivity such as considering the informal sector when it comes to negotiations for circular economy transition adding that there is need to support business models and innovations of businesses in ending plastic pollution.

Zaynab Sadan is the Regional Plastics Policy Coordinator for Africa at WWF: “We need to look at the problem from the views of human health impact, environment socio-economic impact and NGOs and civil society are important tools to understand all angles.”

She added that women, youth and indigenous people’s voices should be considered in the negotiations considering that they play a role in implementing treaties.

The landmark treaty, to end plastic pollution by 2040, could be finished by 2024.

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