Negotiations on a global plastics treaty in Paris this week ended with a critical decision to develop a draft treaty text despite the efforts of some oil-producing nations that are resisting measures to cap plastics production and tried to delay negotiations.
Australia played a leading role at the second International Negotiating Committee (INC-2) meeting in supporting the inclusion of binding measures to limit plastic production in the ‘zero draft’ treaty, which will be considered at the next meeting to be held in Kenya in November.
Plastic pollution is a growing global crisis, with a devastating impact on marine ecosystems, the broader environment, human health, our climate and the rights of indigenous peoples. Without concerted global action, the volume of plastic entering the oceans is projected to triple due to rapidly increasing plastics production. The UN Environment Programme estimates that emissions from plastic production, use and disposal could account for 15% of the global total by 2050.
Ocean conservationists are glad that negotiations are finally moving forward and hope the draft treaty text will include ambitious elements to limit plastic production and offer financial assistance critical for Small Island Developing States in the Pacific region.
Australian Marine Conservation Society Plastics Campaign Manager Shane Cucow said: “Today we are one step closer to a historic agreement to end ocean plastic pollution. This treaty is our one chance to secure the global action needed to stop the flow of plastic into our oceans and ensure future generations can once again enjoy healthy oceans that are full of life.
“We are pleased to see Australia showing leadership in these negotiations, supporting strong, binding measures to control the production and trade of plastic and its waste. Australia was one of many nations to support the inclusion of binding measures to limit plastic production in the draft treaty, which includes options such as global targets to bring plastic use down to sustainable levels.
“Despite mammoth investments in waste management, just 9% of plastic is recycled globally. It is clear that we have already exceeded planetary boundaries for the volume of plastic that can safely be managed. We cannot recycle our way out of this crisis.
“We are also pleased to see broad levels of support for developing a register of problematic single-use plastics, hazardous chemicals and hard to recycle polymers that should be eliminated on a global scale.
“Critically, this week in Paris we also saw high levels of support for financial and technical assistance, in particular for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) who are drowning in plastic from richer nations.”
Despite this progress, civil society organisations expressed concern over the actions of a number of oil producing nations which continued to resist global measures to cap plastics production, as well as preventing negotiations from starting until late in the week by pursuing lengthy debates over rules of procedure.
“Unfortunately, a number of key states remain opposed to measures that would limit plastics production, despite clear evidence that skyrocketing plastics use is the cause of the planetary crisis we face today,” Mr Cucow said.
“We also saw many nations opposing measures to restrict or ban hazardous waste management practices, such as incineration, waste to energy and chemical recycling.
“These practices are a serious risk to human and environmental health, releasing toxic chemicals into the atmosphere and accelerating global heating.”
In March 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) adopted resolution 5/14 titled “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an International Legally Binding Instrument” that began the process to negotiate a new global plastics treaty by the end of 2024.