Plastic pollution no more – Nordic report suggests tools and ways forward

19.10.20 | News
plastic bucket toy sea water
Sharon McCutcheon,
Today the Nordic Council of Ministers for the Environment and Climate are publishing a new report on possible approaches to a new global agreement to prevent plastic pollution. Join the virtual launch that brings together leaders from across the globe to discuss what such a new global agreement could include to be an effective tool.

The Nordic ministers have supported the global policy discussion on stronger global commitments to eliminate plastic litter in the oceans since 2016 by providing support to reports, assessments and to the intergovernmental process established by the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). This report is a contribution from the Nordic countries to inform discussions about a new agreement.

It is urgent to get in place a long-term solution to prevent plastic litter in our ocean. We will discuss this matter at our Ministerial meeting on 28 October and continue our Nordic leadership for a new agreement.  

Lea Wermelin, Danish Minister of Environment and Chair of the Nordic Council of Environment and Climate Ministers

No one-size-fits-all

Mismanaged plastic waste ending up in the environment and the ocean is a growing environmental challenge of global concerns. Large quantities of plastics is found in our oceans, air, soil and freshwater resources and is threat to our marine ecosystem  


In 2017, the United Nations Environment Assembly agreed to the long-term vision to eliminate all discharge of plastic litter into the ocean. Reports to the UN have demonstrated fundamental gaps in the existing international legal and policy frameworks, rendering them ill-equipped to eliminate this problem. The Nordic Ministers agree that a new global agreement is the most effective measure to stop the global leakage of plastic into the environment.


"There is not one-size-fits-all approach to multilateral environment agreements. Therefore, I am glad to see this report lay out a number of possible opportunities for us to explore further" says Norwegian Minister Sveinung Rotevatn, also President of the 5th United Nations Environment Assembly. "The UN system is a good home for such agreements."

About the report

The report "Possible elements of a new global agreement to prevent plastic pollution" suggests an approach to a new global agreement that aims to engage governments, industry and consumers in a joint effort to prevent plastics pollution. The report assesses tools and measures across the whole life-cycle of plastics, and introduces national plastics management plans as a core commitment of governments in a possible agreement. Sustainability criteria for plastic products across the entire life-cycle is another feature that is included into the report. Known traditional features of multilateral environmental agreements, such as reporting systems, stronger knowledge and science basis as well as education, awareness-raising, financing and capacity-building are also part of the approach suggested.


To be effective, the report suggests that a new agreement will include both legally binding and voluntary measures. A minimum binding commitment is required in the agreement, but governments are given flexibility in how such commitments will be honoured. The report will feed into the discussions ongoing in the expert group established by the United Nations Environment Assembly, to meet 9-13 November virtually.

Following their Ministerial meeting in April 2019 in Reykjavik, the Nordic Ministers issued a strong call for a new global agreement to reduce the environmental impact of plastic litter entering our oceans. The Ministers also decided to commission a report to consider what such an agreement could entail. The report, written by Dr. Karen Raubenheimer and Niko Urho is launched Monday October 19th, through a dedicated online event hosted by the Nordic Ministers.

Sustainability criteria for plastic products across the life cycle is another interesting proposal in the report. Such criteria can trigger more sustainable design of plastic products put on the markets, that are recyclable, reusable and repairable. This is something new , but that could be an important tool on a global level.

Sveinung Rotevatn, Minister of Climate and Environment, Norway

It is the Nordic aim that this report will inform the global policy discussions on a new global agreement. The Nordic countries supports a negotiation mandate towards a new global agreement to be adopted by the United Nations at the next possible opportunity.