May 11, 2019

U.S. refrains from signing new UN pact to cut down global plastic waste

A beach in Cork County, Ireland. Photo: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world that hasn't signed an amendment to the United Nations' Basel Convention that aims to cut down on global plastic waste, the AP reports.

Why it matters: Plastic bags, bottles and other wastes are causing widespread harm to marine and coastal ecosystems. These wastes kill massive numbers of marine animals and degrade their environment while entering the food chain. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has estimated that the ocean "could have more plastic than fish by weight" by the middle of this century.

The bottom line: Signatory countries to the Basel Convention's new framework about plastic waste will have to figure out their own methods for limiting the pollution, according to Rolph Payet of the United Nations Environment Program. The new stipulations say signatory governments will aim to "make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated."

The other side: The UN can only enforce this pact against signatories, despite the Basel Convention being bound in international law, so the U.S. is unlikely to see any direct consequences from not signing the new framework.

Go deeper: The global plastic problem is even bigger than you think

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U.S. coronavirus updates: New York tops previous day's record death toll

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New York's death toll surged to its highest one-day total on Wednesday — beating the previous day's record. 779 people died in the state in 24 hours. The state has reported more cases than the most-affected countries in Europe.

Why it matters: Public health officials have warned this would be a particularly deadly week for America, even as New York began to see declining trends of hospitalizations and ICU admissions.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 17 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,504,971 — Total deaths: 87,984 — Total recoveries: 318,068Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 424,945 — Total deaths: 14,529 — Total recoveries: 23,292Map.
  3. Federal government latest: Top Trump administration officials had been developing a plan to give cloth masks to huge numbers of Americans, but the idea lost traction amid heavy internal skepticism.
  4. States latest: Chicago's Cook County jail is largest-known source of coronavirus in U.S.
  5. Business update: One-third of U.S. jobs are at risk of disappearing, mostly affecting low-income workers.
  6. World update: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to put politics aside "if you don’t want to have many more body bags.”
  7. Environment update: COVID-19 is underscoring the connection between air pollution and dire outcomes from respiratory diseases.
  8. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

The pandemic and pollution

New York City's skyline on a smoggy day in May 2019. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

COVID-19 is underscoring the connection between air pollution and dire outcomes from respiratory diseases.

Why it matters: Old-fashioned air pollution is almost certainly the single biggest environmental health threat, contributing to the deaths of some 7 million people a year according to the WHO, making it comparable to deaths from smoking.

Go deeperArrow3 hours ago - Health