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Countries Take First Steps Towards Plastic Pollution Treaty

Governments have set out the schedule of negotiations towards a plastic pollution treaty, and elaborated rules of procedure. Multi-stakeholder dialogues convened in parallel, bringing together representatives of communities directly affected by plastic pollution, as well as corporate interests with stakes in the plastics value chain, among other actors who will be affected by a future instrument.

“As plastic pollution becomes ever more visible both on land and in waterways, calls to tackle the mounting plastic waste crisis have reverberated around the world,” notes the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary of the meeting. Approximately 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, of which 6.3 billion tonnes are now waste. Between 8 million and 12 million tonnes of plastic leak into the marine environment each year – a number that is expected to more than triple by 2050. Studies have linked exponential growth in plastic pollution to unsustainable production and consumption patterns, resulting in wide-ranging impacts on human health and the health of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. In the past two years, plastic particles were reported to have been found in human lungs, blood, and placenta.

In response to these growing concerns, UNEA passed a number of resolutions to address the issue, including resolution 5/14 titled, ‘End plastic pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument,’ which mandated the process to develop an international treaty to address plastic pollution.

A meeting of the ad hoc open-ended working group (OEWG) to prepare for the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, convened from 30 May to 1 June 2022, in Dakar, Senegal, with the option of virtual participation available to those unable to attend in person. The meeting sought to establish a foundation for the work of the INC by addressing two core issues: the rules of procedure governing the INC’s work and decision making; and the INC’s meeting schedule.

Delegates were able to agree on a tentative timetable for the meetings of the INC over the next two years, although the dates were not fixed. The ENB reports that a “somewhat unexpected hurdle” in finalizing the rules of procedure was the voting rights for regional economic integration organizations. This rule remained unresolved and will require further consideration at the first session of the INC, which will be hosted by Uruguay. The ENB analysis of the meeting flags that only five negotiating sessions have been planned, and “whether this negotiation timeline is realistic or not is … up for debate.”

In addition to the INC process, other bodies conducting work related to marine litter and microplastics include the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (Basel Convention), the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and various Regional Seas Programmes and Conventions. [ENB Coverage of the Open-ended Working Group Meeting] [UNEP Meeting Webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story about IISD Brief on Confronting the Plastic Pollution Pandemic]

 

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