What does the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC2) bode for the global plastics treaty? adelphi research-experts Maro Luisa Schulte and Per-Olof Busch were in Paris for the negotiations. On World Environment Day 2023, they shared their impressions and what they imply for global efforts to find solutions to combat plastic pollution:
“INC2 began with procedural delays: Countries with vested interests in plastic production, and in part with unrelated geopolitical interests, forestalled negotiations on substantive issues for two and a half days, while trying to agree on the rules of procedure, in particular on their right to veto any agreement.
Once states compromised on setting the issue aside by formally noting their disagreement on the matter, deliberations on substance could finally begin. Therein, a great divide became visible: On one side the 'waste faction', seeing plastic pollution as a question of proper waste management. Among them: Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, India, and Brazil. On the other side: The High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution, chaired by Norway and Rwanda. Among states in this coalition are EU Member States, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Antigua and Barbuda, the UK, Canada, Ecuador, and Peru. They can be considered the ‘upstream faction’. This faction sees plastic pollution as a wider problem that also involves the production of plastics.
Although the ‘waste-faction’ initially delayed a substantial debate, states ultimately managed to voice their views on all elements in the Options Paper, and agreed on a mandate for the INC-Chair, Ambassador Meza-Cuadra of Peru, to develop a first draft negotiation text (the ‘zero draft’). They managed to do so through perseverance and determination and under the guidance of the Co-Facilitators in the Contact Groups.
The next three sessions will see tough negotiations on content and commas, and possibly again on procedures. All eyes are now on Meza-Cuadra's draft. Among the challenges ahead are open questions such as:
What is binding, what is voluntary? What is determined at the national and what at the global level? These decisions will determine how effective and potent the final treaty will be.
Definitions and criteria, e.g. for problematic plastics and chemicals: These issues provide lots of potential for getting caught up in details, they would benefit from inter-sessional work.
How can we support implementation? A global fund? A global EPR? Innovative finance?
The rules of procedure: States reached no consensus on this issue. It can re-emerge next time, delaying productive debate once more.
In sum: States made their positions clear, collected ideas on the options paper, and set the zero draft in motion. So, will the final treaty be broad and ambitious, or reflect the minimal consensus? It is too early to tell, everything is still possible. But INC2 allows for hope that states will agree on more than the lowest common denominator, which would be waste management.”
Contact: schulteadelphi [dot] de (Maro Luisa Schulte) & buschadelphi [dot] de (Per-Olof Busch)
Bringing Plastics into Focus
adelphi has been working and researching on the issue of plastics pollution and potential political solutions for many years. Here is an overview of our experts’ key insights as well as selected projects, publications, and media appearances: