INC-3 fails to produce significant advancements for the Global Plastics Treaty

Date: November 20, 2023

The third meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) for a global agreement to end plastic pollution concluded yesterday at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi. Despite a clear mandate, Member States failed to reach an agreement on a revised treaty draft and also failed to agree on priorities for intersessional work ahead of INC-4, despite an 11th-hour attempt, jeopardizing significant advancements for the treaty process.

“A global plastic treaty has huge potential to help the world address plastic pollution,” said Deng Ping, Regional Director of Pacific Environment’s Chongqing Office. “Discussions progressed faster this round than last, but countries need to continue work harder, listen to each other, and as many Member States expressed, pay more attention to science.”

“While many good faith efforts were made from African nations, Small Island Developing States, and others, a few loud voices held sway, blocking advances in setting targets, baselines, and schedules. The plastics treaty needs a strong conflict of interest policy to overcome deliberate industry obstruction,” said Kristen McDonald, Pacific Environment.

In addition, member states ended INC-3 with no clear mandate for intersessional work on production side issues which is needed to ensure progress on baselines, making it more unlikely that INC-4 in Ottawa will achieve better outcomes.

Plastic pollution is a global environmental, human health and climate crisis. Globally, plastic pollution has doubled in the past two decades. Plastic is 99% sourced from fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are emitted throughout the life cycle. In 2023, Pacific Environment released a report calling for the reduction of plastic production by at least 75% by 2050 to meet a 1.5 degree temperature change limit.

Plastic production reduction is also critical due to the harms of toxics. Communities near petrochemical plants are burdened by generational exposure to toxic emissions and toxic substances are present in the plastic itself.

“There is no such thing as a non-toxic, fossil fuel based plastic. It’s in the name; polyethylene, polystyrene, poly vinyl chloride: all of these are toxic and hazardous to human life, health and safety and to minimize this scientific fact is deceptive, morally and intellectually dishonest,” said John Beard Jr, CEO, PACAN. Beard is an environmental justice advocate based in Texas and a former petrochemical employee.

Member States still have an opportunity to craft a strong Global Plastics Treaty by 2024, but only two INCs are remaining for them to do so.

“The basic draft of the treaty still outlines many measures to address plastic pollution along the plastic lifecycle. The challenge is to ensure strong control measures for paramount issues like primary polymer production, problematic plastics, and chemicals of concern. It is essential these elements not get watered down or left out in the next round of negotiations,” said Xuan Quach, Vietnam Country Director, Pacific Environment.