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Concluding remarks

Given the systemic nature of plastic pollution, global and coordinated action is needed across the plastic lifecycle to drive real systems change. The potential introduction of an international, legally binding instrument on ending plastic pollution gives UN member states and stakeholders a unique opportunity to scale the necessary action, international coordination and collaboration towards this goal.
The Global Rules Scenario shows how the implementation of far-reaching policies across all geographies, concurrently and across the plastic lifecycle, could significantly reduce plastic production and consumption and mismanaged plastics by 2040, while also mitigating GHG emissions. The establishment of common global rules through an international, legally binding instrument presents a unique opportunity to make this a reality. This would require transformations in our economies and societies; changes in consumer behaviour and industry design; major expansions of public and private infrastructure; substantial investments; and transitions in labour markets. The Global Rules Scenario assumes the mandatory application of these policies across all regions; but even then, the analysis shows that plastic mismanagement would remain an issue for the most complex sources of pollution, such as microplastics. Thus, to have a real chance of solving this challenge, global legally binding rules and international frameworks will be needed to coordinate and enable this transition.
To be effective, the 15 policy interventions highlighted in the Global Rules Scenario should be complemented by implementation enablers to address governance and institutional gaps globally, regionally and nationally. These could relate to financial assistance, capacity building, technical assistance and technology transfer – as defined by the INC Options Paper ahead of INC-2 – as well as national action plans, national reporting, compliance and periodic assessment and monitoring. The results presented assume that these would be put in place; otherwise, it is unlikely that the assumptions around compliance, enforcement and effectiveness of policies estimated in the analysis could be achieved.
It is also crucial to acknowledge that plastic pollution is a broader problem; and that critical issues such as health risks, chemicals of concern and negative impacts on biodiversity – which are not addressed in detail in this report – must also be tackled. Hence, the Global Rules Scenario is intended merely as a starting point for systems change in the global plastics system, rather than as a comprehensive solution. The policies outlined in this report should thus be complemented by further levers to align the global plastics system with the Paris Climate Agreement, address health concerns, ensure a just transition and reduce negative impacts on biodiversity.
Yet this report shows that implementing 15 far-reaching policy interventions could take us a long way in the journey towards ending plastic pollution by 2040.
15 far-reaching policy interventions could take us a long way in the journey towards ending plastic pollution by 2040