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AMCEN calls for urgent action to tackle Africa’s mounting plastic crisis

Amid intensifying concerns regarding the environmental ramifications of plastics production and disposal methods, Greenpeace Africa has issued a call to action, urging the Environment Ministers from all 54 African nations to endorse a Treaty aimed at reforming the plastics value chain.

During the 19th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), Greenpeace pressed the 54 Member States to stand firm in their negotiations for a groundbreaking treaty that would effectively cap plastic production at its source and prevent the extraction of oil and gas used in plastic manufacturing.

The AMCEN session, which was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from August 14 to 18 2023, is centred around the theme “Seizing opportunities and enhancing collaboration to address environmental challenges in Africa.”

This gathering serves as a platform for enhancing Africa’s collective involvement in the global environmental agenda, including the International Negotiating Committee’s (INC) efforts to forge a legally binding global plastics treaty.

The Proposed Treaty

Greenpeace Africa’s Communication and Story Manager, Hellen Kahaso Dena, emphasized the significance of unity and justice as African Ministers of Environment convened in Addis Ababa.

The organization urged AMCEN to lead African member states toward a treaty grounded in human rights and equity, one that can combat plastic pollution, which gravely affects communities across the continent.

Dena highlighted that plastic pollution not only disrupts ecosystems crucial for African livelihoods but also exacerbates social inequalities, echoing the harm caused by the climate crisis.

The African Group of Negotiators is urged to advocate for a robust treaty that fosters a just transition toward sustainable livelihoods for those affected along the plastics value chain, including workers and communities.

The call is for support of business models promoting reuse and refill, encompassing the interests of waste pickers and Indigenous Peoples and integrating traditional knowledge.

The interconnection between plastic production and climate change is undeniable. Given that more than 99% of plastics are derived from fossil fuels, plastic manufacturing significantly contributes to the climate crisis, accounting for roughly 3.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Curtailing plastic production and discontinuing single-use plastics aligns with the overarching aim of restraining global warming within the 1.5-degree limit.

Call to Action

Advocates of single-use plastics are advocating for increased plastic production and export to Africa, potentially undermining the strides African nations have made in tackling plastic pollution.

A collaborative approach among African Member States is essential to address these challenges and to counteract the unlawful and neo-colonialist approach adopted by the Global North in handling plastic waste.

With 34 governments having already enacted bans on single-use plastics or passed laws aimed at such a ban, Africa is demonstrating significant leadership in the fight against plastic pollution.

Greenpeace expects AMCEN to prompt all Member States to adopt an ambitious strategy, fostering robust global plastic treaty objectives that can effectively combat plastic pollution and curb the detrimental impacts of plastic waste dumping in Africa.

Hellen Kahaso Dena concluded with this call for comprehensive and impactful action.

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