Finance Sector Urged to Act on Plastics

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – The journey towards an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution continues with a call for greater involvement from the financial community.  On 28 February 2024 the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) gathered experts from science, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and the asset management industry to provide an update on the ILBI process and urged financial institutions to sign a common statement calling for an end to plastic pollution.

    Jan Raes, Finance and Plastics Lead at UNEP FI provides a reminder of the preparatory work of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) convened in 2022 and working towards a binding agreement during 2025.  Following a controversial INC-2 in Paris and a slow progress at INC-3 in Nairobi, Kenya, UNEP FI would like the joint financial sector statement to be presented to delegates at INC-4, which is scheduled to take place between 21-29 April 2024 in Ottawa, Canada.  The proposed statement has been jointly drafted by UNEP FI, the PRI, the Finance for Biodiversity Foundation, the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, the Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO), and CDP.

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    An overview of the costs of plastics pollution is provided by Bethanie Carney Almroth, Professor of Eco-Toxicology at the University of Gothenburg.  The complexity of the crisis is evident from the reported 16,000 substances commonly used in plastic production, including 4,200 that care considered chemicals of concern with risks to human health and to the natural environment.  The case is made that the costs of inaction are likely to far exceed the costs of the remedial actions needed to address the plastic pollution crisis.  Although the INC process is working towards a binding plastics treaty, the ongoing voluntary efforts of NGOs and industry are highlighted by Rob Opsomer, Executive Lead Plastics and Finance at the Ellen Macarthur Foundation.  More than 1,000 organisations have signed up to the latter, accounting for roughly 20% of global plastic packaging production and use.  Nevertheless, Opsomer points to the remaining 80% that are not involved as evidence of the need for mandatory legislation to police the plastics industry.

    Joost van Dun is Director of Sustainable Finance and Circular Economy Lead at ING and a member of the UNEP FI-Convened Finance Leadership Group on Plastics.  He explains the group’s work on aligning financial flows with the objective of ending plastic pollution.  A guidance paper on the group’s recommendations for finance professionals is available from UNEP FI.

    The joint finance sector statement calls for an ambitious plastics agreement to match the level of commitment of other landmark treaties like the Paris climate agreement and the Kunming-Montréal biodiversity framework.  This would involve aligning financial flows with harmonised targets and obligations throughout the plastics value chain.  Similarly, companies would be required to disclose their exposure to plastics related risks and opportunities.  There is also a call to create mechanism to encourage collaboration between the private and public sectors, and to ensure that plastics policy takes climate and biodiversity-related action into account to generate synergies.

    Financial institutions are invited to sign the statement by 10 April 2024 at 12:00 CET.  The document can be downloaded via the PRI, who are also available to provide further information that is not covered in their FAQ.  Signature and approval of the statement can be done via this form.

    Image courtesy of Jas Min on Unsplash
    Richard Tyszkiewicz
    Richard Tyszkiewicz
    Richard has over 30 years’ experience in the international investment industry. He has worked closely with major Nordic investors on consultancy projects, focusing on the evaluation of external asset managers. While doing so, Richard built up a strong practical understanding of the challenges faced by institutional investors seeking to integrate ESG into their portfolios. Richard has an MA degree in Management and Spanish from St Andrews University, and sustainability qualifications from Cambridge University, PRI and the CFA Institute.
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