Rwanda: Minister Mujawamariya Rallies Global Leaders to End Plastic Waste

18 January 2023

Rwanda's Minister for the environment has called for common obligations to quickly finalise the global treaty to end plastic waste.

She was speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland to discuss the global effort to end plastic pollution and how the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution (HAC) is supporting efforts to reach a legally binding plastics treaty by 2024.

Jeanne D'arc Mujawamariya, the Minister for Environment in Rwanda, and Espen Barth Eide, the Minister of Climate and Environment, Norway are co-chairs of the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution.

"While we only have a short time to finalise the Plastics Treaty, this is not an excuse to water it down. It is a challenge to make it even more robust & ambitious. I'm confident we are up to the challenge. Rwanda understood the challenge even when we were drafting the resolution," Muwamariya said.

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.

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 and so far 50 countries have joined the coalition.

Mujawamariya said that besides protecting the environment and curbing biodiversity loss, ending plastic waste will protect human health.

"I encourage all nations to support the development of a strong treaty. Flexibility is important and necessary in national implementation, but developing national action plans without common obligations for action will not suffice," she noted.

Juliet Kabera, the Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority reiterated: "We need nothing less than a system change of speed and scale to tackle the global issue of plastic pollution. Plastic crisis is an environmental issue as well as a health one; the global plastics treaty will be a great step in this direction."

Exposure to plastics can harm human health, potentially affecting fertility, hormonal, metabolic and neurological activity, and open burning of plastics contributes to air pollution.

By 2050, greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal will account for 15 per cent of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (34.7°F) according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Some 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flow annually into the oceans.

This may triple by 2040.

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