The Status of the UN treaty to end plastic pollution
9th Dec, 2023
Members of a committee met in Nairobi in November to develop an international treaty to end plastic pollution.
International Efforts and the Role of INC:
- The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), operating under the United Nations Environment Programme, convened in Nairobi from November 13-19 2023 for its third round of negotiations aimed at crafting a global treaty to eradicate plastic pollution by 2025.
- Under UNEA Resolution 5/14, INC's mandate is pivotal in formulating a binding international instrument to combat the pervasive issue of plastic pollution globally.
- The recent INC-3 gathering was crucial, marking a turning point in the negotiations.
Evaluation of the 'Zero Draft':
- The 'zero draft,' meticulously prepared by the Committee's Secretariat, initially presented robust options for a binding treaty.
- However, during negotiations, significant dilutions occurred, particularly in core obligations related to primary polymer production, chemicals of concern, and problematic plastics.
Contentious Issues and Divergent Perspectives:
- Contentions emerged over the treaty's objective and scope, with a group of nations, including Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Iran, and some members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, advocating for economic considerations by appending a clause on sustainable development.
Industry Influence and Opposition to Production Reduction:
- Industry influence was evident, with a notable 36% increase in lobbyists from the fossil fuels and chemicals sector. Resistance to discussing a reduction in plastic production underscored thechallenge of aligning economic interests with environmental goals.
Financial Mechanism Debate:
- The zero draft proposed financial mechanisms, such as a plastic-pollution fee, contested by nations advocating for their deletion.
- The implications of these provisions extend to potential shifts in fossil-fuel subsidies and investments in environmentally adverse technologies.
Trade Restrictions and Misinterpretation of WTO Rules:
- A bloc of countriesopposed trade restrictions on polymers, chemicals, and plastics, citing sovereignty concerns.
- However, analysis by the Centre for International Environmental Law revealed a misinterpretation of WTO rules, suggesting ample scope for such restrictions when vital for health and environmental protection.
INC-3 Outcomes and Stalling Tactics:
- INC-3 faced challenges in adopting a mandate for developing the first draft of the treaty.
- Stalling tactics, primarily by like-minded countries, led to a lack of consensus on key provisions, hindering progress.
Implications for Future Negotiations:
- The inability to reach a consensus on inter-sessional work before INC-4 is a setback, impeding the refinement of definitions, targets, and timelines.
- The influence of industry and the resistance of certain member states to a robust, binding treaty were laid bare during INC-3.
- INC-3 exposed the intricate dynamics in negotiating a global treaty on plastic pollution, emphasizing the need for a delicate balance between environmental imperatives and economic considerations.
- The journey towards an effective and comprehensive treaty continues, navigating challenges and striving for a collective commitment to combat plastic pollution.