INC-3 talks hit roadblock: nations clash over plastics treaty ambitions

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FILE PHOTO: A boy walks on a beach polluted by plastic trash in Bali, Indonesia, April 17, 2023. REUTERS/Ian Ransom

Last week’s INC-3 discussions, held at the UN Environment Programme in Nairobi, aimed to advance the initial draft of the Plastics Treaty issued in September.

Observers, including Greenpeace, assert that a few nations with significant petrochemical interests hindered progress at INC-3 by engaging in disputes over the precise language of operationalising the Treaty.

INC-3 concluded without an agreement on reducing virgin plastics production. The initial draft proposed three options: a global reduction target for all nations, a global target with nationally determined contributions, or leaving targets to individual nations.

NGOs claim that petrostates advocated for the latter approach. However, the High Ambition Coalition, comprising 60+ members, including major European economies, blocked these nations from embedding it in the Treaty.

WWF reported that most representatives worked toward common ground, but many nations in Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America were pushing for a robust agreement due to their disproportionate impact from global plastic pollution.

Approximately 140 nations prefer binding rules over voluntary targets.

Greenpeace USA’s Graham Forbes said, “Governments are letting fossil fuel interests drive negotiations toward a treaty that will worsen the plastic problem and accelerate climate change.”

Squabbles also emerged over whether the Treaty should mandate bans and phase-outs on the most harmful plastics. About 100 nations support this approach, while over 50 are either opposed or undecided.

Disagreements persist on how nations should collaborate until the next official talks in Canada next spring, with no agreed programme of intersessional work.

Environmental Investigation Agency campaigner Jacon Kean-Hammerson warned of a treacherous path towards a strong final agreement, with uncertainties about bridging political divides.

WWF US’s Erin Simon urged countries to “reject tactics blocking the treaty process” and muster the political will to address the crisis before the UN’s goal of finalizing the Treaty by the end of 2024.

INC meeting chair Gustavo Adolfo Meza-Cuadra Velasquez noted that much remains to be done both in narrowing down our differences and in developing technical work to inform our negotiations.

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