Global Plastics Treaty: The Latest from the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee’s Third Session (INC-3)
by Sian Lee at 09:43 in Packaging, Environmental, Emerging
From 13-19 November 2023, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) convened in Nairobi for the Third Session (INC-3) of negotiations on the development of an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. The INC, which was established by the United Nations Environment Assembly in 2022, aims to negotiate a new legally binding global agreement on plastic pollution by 2024.
What was discussed at INC-3?
Following the Second Session (INC-2) of negotiations, which were held in Paris from 29 May to 2 June 2023, the Chair of the INC was required to prepare the Zero Draft text in preparation for INC-3. This draft text outlines the proposed wording of the agreement. During INC-3, UN Members were invited to provide their views on the Zero Draft Text and propose textual amendments. Discussions at INC-3 centred on the workings of 3 contact groups established by the INC, who are mandated to review proposed amendments to the Zero Draft Text.
What would an international agreement on plastic pollution look like?
The core aim of the INC's international agreement is to eliminate plastic pollution, and as such, this agreement would set ambitious targets for its signatories. The Zero Draft text details requirement for each party of the agreement to take measures to prohibit the production, sale, distribution, import or export of plastic products including single-use plastic (SUP) products. However, achieving unanimous agreement from all UN Members on the proposed wording of the agreement is not without its challenges. The co-facilitator of contact group 1 noted disagreements between Members on several core wordings of the Zero Draft text. Various Members expressed the need for measures which aim to prohibit certain SUP products to provide exemptions for essential uses, including SUP products used in the medical sector.
The Zero Draft text additionally introduces several other requirements aimed at reducing plastic pollution, including measures relating to chemicals and polymers of concern, product design and performance, alternative plastics and non-plastic substitutes, extended producer responsibility (EPR), and labelling. However, the exact wording of the draft text is yet to be finalised by the INC.
Why is an internationally binding agreement necessary?
Calls for an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution are not new. Infact, ever since the 1972 Stockholm Convention the UN have increasingly lobbied for creation of a legally binding instrument to tackle plastic pollution. Such ambition finally culminated in creation of a mandate in 2022 for the INC to create a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. It is envisaged that the eventual creation of legally binding targets to combat plastic pollution would create a collective call-to-action across the international community.
What's next for the agreement and INC-4?
The next step of negotiations will get underway in April 2024, where the INC will reconvene in Ottawa, Canada, to continue negotiations in the Fourth Session (INC-4). The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) envisage an international legally binding agreement will be achieved by 2024, however the exact requirements of the international agreement are yet to be finalised by the INC. At the end of INC-3, the co-facilitator of each contact group was required to submit a compilation of Member views towards a revised Zero Draft Text to the INC. Members have called for the INC to prepare a revised Zero Draft text in advance of the Fourth Session (INC-4) to reflect proposed amendments to the Zero Draft text.
As we continue to closely monitor progress on the Zero Draft Text in preparation for INC-4, it is clear an international agreement on plastic pollution would have profound impact on plastic usage globally. It is likely that INC-4 will lead to further progress on key requirements of the agreement, including introduction of EPR and measures targeting SUP. To find out more about national and global legislation aimed at reducing plastic pollution, including how you can keep up to date with the latest developments, contact us today!
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