France must take the fight against plastics to the international level


Only a few months after passing concrete and ambitious measures such as the law against waste and for a circular economy last February, the French government now seems to be maintaining a low profile about its environmental commitment, especially on the issue of plastics. Indeed, unlike most of its European partners, the French government is taking a surprising “wait-and-see” attitude regarding an international treaty on plastics. Surfrider Europe, on behalf of several environmental NGOs, asks the government in an open letter to take a strong stance. 

The French government backs down 

The fifth session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly will be held from 22 to 26 February 2021. On the agenda is the possibility to start the process of drafting a global treaty on plastics, enabled by the creation of an intergovernmental negotiating committee. Usually a leader in this area, the French government is opting to stay on the sidelines, as it does not want the European Commission to assert a strong position on the subject.  

A matter at the heart of French concerns 

Over the past few months, however, the Citizens' Climate Convention has showed that environmental protection, and in particular plastic pollution, is a true concern for French citizens. At the G7 summit held in Biarritz in August 2019, the President of the Republic himself expressed his desire to position France as a leader of environmental protection.  

And yet, today, at a time when global plastics production is increasing steadily (if nothing changes, a 40% increase is expected by 2030), the French government is still wavering on its position. It does not wish to give a clear mandate to the European Commission to play this leading role in the development of a new global instrument to tackle the plastics issue.  

Providing concrete support to the fight against plastics 

While many agreements already exist, the measures taken to fight plastic pollution on a global scale remain insufficient. Therefore Surfrider Europe, on behalf of the NGOs CIEL, EIA, France Nature Environnement, WWF France, and Zero Waste France, calls on the government to assert its position in favour of an international plastics treaty. 

The group of associations proposes four pillars of action on which this new global agreement should be based:  

- Reduce plastic pollution at its source, by setting reduction targets, and imposing the development of national action plans, as well as reporting and monitoring obligations;

- Implement coordination measures to ensure an internationally aligned architecture, so that existing international and regional actions to combat plastic pollution are supported and complemented;  

- Share knowledge and provide assistance, especially regarding technical, scientific and socio-economic assessments;  

- Provide financial support to developing countries most in need of support to meet their commitments and implement sustainably financed solutions.   

At a time when plastic pollution in our environment is increasing, Surfrider Europe asserts that protecting the Ocean and its resources contributes to protecting the world. For this, the French government's environmental commitment and French leadership on the subject are urgently necessary.  

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