The third round of negotiations has attracted over 500 proposals from governments, non-governmental organizations, and strong efforts to reach an agreement on controlling plastic and plastic pollution by the end of 2024.
Despite being more than halfway through the negotiations for a Global Plastic Treaty, all nations are still considering options outlined in the draft documents. Switzerland and Uruguay propose limiting harmful polymers and chemicals, a move supported by over 100 member countries.
Some delegates argue that “major fossil fuel producers and exporters have delayed effective efforts towards controlling plastic and plastic pollution.” Canada, Kenya, and the European Union are among those advocating for limiting plastic production, while Russia, Saudi Arabia, and others focus on emphasizing recycling.
Delegates are debating the expanded responsibility of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Choices to increase recycling rates and stimulate secondary markets or flexibility in implementing EPR programs based on national sovereignty, individual capacity, or a combination of both are still under discussion. Some nations support not including an EPR option, while others call for its inclusion in waste management regulations. There are also suggestions to apply EPR to enforce the “polluter pays” principle.
Discussions revolve around how terms related to “emissions” and “discharges” will relate to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) regulations. Some countries propose more detailed scientific research on plastic emissions, emphasizing the need to focus on emissions and discharges of plastic pellets, fragments, and powders from production, storage, processing, and transportation. Others prioritize sectoral approaches to address sources of plastic emissions and polymer discharges, encompassing plastic waste and products throughout their life cycle. Several countries propose incorporating language related to abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) into these provisions.
Some suggest not replicating existing tools, such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Others emphasize the need for instruments and tools for waste management.
Some countries view the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the sole mechanism to discuss trade issues, including the trade of chemicals, polymers, listed products, and plastic waste. Concerns are raised that trade provisions in ILBI may negatively impact developing countries by creating unnecessary trade barriers and challenges. Regarding transboundary movement of plastic waste, many delegates call for avoiding overlap with Basel Convention regulations.
Regarding current plastic pollution, including marine environments, some opinions highlight the lack of binding regulations for remediation and cite specific cases of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). They urge establishing a legal framework to address cross-border plastic pollution, especially ALDFG, consistent with the Cartagena Convention and MARPOL. Indigenous knowledge systems are also mentioned in these sessions.
Technical and financial support is crucial to enable a fair transition process. Some delegates stress the need for appropriate working conditions for waste management actors and the plastic value chain, especially informal waste pickers, during the fair transition process. Informal waste pickers should be included in each country’s corresponding social policies, recognizing waste management as the responsibility of national and local governments.
Regarding transparency, monitoring, surveillance, and labeling, suggestions propose considering the positive outcomes of packaging labeling and emphasize the need for information collection throughout the plastic life cycle. There are suggestions to clarify whether national regulatory references should be included in ILBI and, if so, whether this aligns better with reporting requirements.
In terms of institutional arrangements, countries agree to establish subsidiary bodies/panels to advise management bodies, including: scientific and technical/technological issues; monitoring, review, and evaluation; implementation and compliance; and financial/economic matters. Some delegations emphasize the need for comprehensive and fair functioning of these bodies, guided by consensus, fair geographical and gender balance, and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR).
Many opinions stress the immediate establishment of some subsidiary bodies for interim work, but there are differing opinions on whether all need simultaneous establishment. Some note that due to time constraints, scientific and technical content might not achieve all desired outcomes during the interim phase. Several opinions emphasize the importance of multi-stakeholder involvement in providing information for the work of management bodies, acknowledging the roles of non-governmental organizations, academic sectors, and industries.
Regarding the Synthesis Report, some nations emphasize that these provisions should be negotiated after specific obligations of the convention have been agreed upon. The question of whether the treaty should have an annex remains undecided at INC3.
Delegates widely support establishing a legal drafting group in the subsequent stage of negotiations to define final provisions, referring to the process adopted for the Minamata Convention. There are suggestions that the final provisions should require consensus.
Delegates request the Secretariat to compile and issue “draft text” by December 31, 2023, as a basis for negotiations at INC-4 in Canada in April 2024.