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World’s environment officials set goal for contamination-free planet

Improved use of commercial chemicals, cuts in ocean plastic pollution needed, assembly says

by Cheryl Hogue
December 7, 2017

International delegates standing and waving around a banner that reads "together we can #beatpollution"
Credit: UNEP
Delegates at the United Nations Environment Assembly committed to a pollution-free planet.

Top environmental officials from around the globe pledged on Dec. 6 to improve people’s lives by cutting contamination of land, air, fresh water, and oceans.

Meeting as the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, the officials set an international goal of a pollution-free planet. They did not establish a time frame for reaching this lofty objective, calling it “a long-term endeavor.”

“We have put the fight against pollution high on the global political agenda,” says Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

One activity that must be improved to eliminate pollution is use of commercial chemicals, the assembly determined.

“We believe that it is both inexcusable and preventable that tens of thousands of chemicals are used in everyday objects and applied in the field without proper testing, labelling or tracking,” the environment ministers say in a declaration. “Far too many communities” lack information about hazardous substances they use or are exposed to, or they lack the capacity to manage those hazards safely, the declaration says.

Separately, the assembly called for action to curb the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans as global plastic production and use continues to increase. The assembly called for UNEP to create a global experts group to study options for reducing marine plastic litter, including microplastics. To this end, the assembly encouraged countries to establish policies that extend producers’ responsibility for the fate of their products.


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