During the week of June 29 to June 2, the second session of the Intergovernmental Committee negotiations to develop a binding international treaty against plastic pollution took place. This session delivered many messages of hope, but also its share of frustrations.
Dozens of civil society experts, scientists and rights-holders were denied access to or participation in the negotiations, in direct contradiction with the INC’s mandate, which stipulates “the widest and most effective participation possible”. Indigenous peoples – who hold rights protected under international law – had to organize their own side event to be heard by INC delegates. In addition, UNEP gave a company with a vested interest in perpetuating plastic production a platform to promote “plastic offsetting”, a false solution that neither “offsets” plastic production nor pollution. Much of the plastic collected for “offsetting” is burnt, harming communities and the environment.
Debate on the CIN’s rules of procedure dragged on for several days, with differences over how the EU votes – and whether voting should be allowed at all. Some countries, mainly oil-producing ones, wanted to reverse the precedents and processes agreed under other multilateral environmental agreements by eliminating voting procedures, which would hamper the INC’s effectiveness. Finally, countries agreed on an interpretative statement for rule 38.1 (adoption of decisions by a two-thirds majority as a last resort, if all efforts to reach consensus have been exhausted). There is no doubt that the draft “provisional” rules of procedure will return to the table – for another waste of time – at INC-3.
Some countries have demonstrated a worryingly limited understanding of plastic pollution, at odds with existing definitions in international law, which undermines the effectiveness of the treaty that will result from this process.
Despite these unfortunate points, we can still observe that other countries are doing their utmost to make this treaty as effective as possible;
UNEP’s opening statements emphasized that we can’t solve the plastics crisis with recycling alone, highlighting instead these critical actions: reducing plastic production, banning the most health-damaging plastics, investing in reuse and refill, transparency, and measures across the entire plastics lifecycle to reduce adverse effects on health and climate. Calls were made by some countries for systems to be redesigned to emphasize justice, particularly for waste pickers and other informal workers. Many countries stressed the need for a treaty that includes: production caps, elimination of problematic plastics and chemicals, coverage of the entire plastic supply chain, and protection of the most affected and vulnerable communities. Still, the INC heard calls from NGOs, indigenous peoples, women, affected communities, unions, workers, scientists and other rights holders and members of civil society for a dramatic reduction in plastic production, a halt to petrochemical expansion, incentives for reuse systems, a ban on toxic chemicals, an end to waste incineration and a just transition for workers, including waste pickers.
Finally, a so-called “zero draft” will be presented and negotiated at INC-3 in Nairobi in November.
To continue making our voices heard, here are a few important petitions to sign!
Photo | Art installation by Benjamin Von Wong unveiled by Greenpeace International, Paris. Photo © REUTERS – Yonathan Van der Voort.