The United Nations have begun talks that could bring an end to plastic pollution worldwide

By Elayna Davis-Mercer.

We have until 2024 to end plastic pollution. How we do this, will depend on the negotiations of 180 countries, who must establish a binding agreement.

Last Friday, and after five intense days, the most recent Intergovernmental Negotiations Committee meeting came to a close. And just like COP, these negotiations struggled with procedural delays and competing interests from different stakeholders.  

At VOICE we are disappointed that these negotiations have fallen victim to procedural delays and attempts to weaken the potential treaty and its goals.  

Frustrated participants from numerous countries claimed that half of the week was curtailed with distractions and endless debates surrounding the Rules of Procedure. Swathi Seshadri from the Institute for Critical Action Centre in Movement in India stated, “Major fossil fuel and petrochemical producing countries stonewalled the negotiations from the start, delaying substantive negotiations by opposing a democratic decision-making process.” (Bffp).  

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To successfully put an end to plastic pollution we must elevate the voices of those people and communities who are typically silenced by large corporations and the petrochemical industry.

Dissapointingly, it seemed that while representatives from oil companies and the industry were given access to the meetings, those from fields of science, indigenous groups, civil society groups and other important stakeholders had to push to be included in the negotiations. These groups only gained access after a peaceful solidarity action outside the UNESCO campus and calls from governments for broader participation.  

'Plastic was not mentioned during negotiations until day three out of five.'

It is not promising to hear that plastic was not mentioned during negotiations until day three out of five, and even then, negotiations seemed to be obstructed by representatives from industry members. These reps focused on solutions such as “plastic offsetting” that does not curtail plastic pollution but instead allows companies to continue to use plastic if they fund the removal of other plastic waste already in the environment. Solutions such as these are not nearly as beneficial in the long term and continue to benefit oil and petrochemical companies.  

Despite procedural delays this mandate has the potential to stop plastic pollution which has become one of the most toxic and prominent pollutants worldwide.  

By the end of the week countries have made some headway; it was agreed that this mandate must be legally binding, as opposed to voluntary. In addition, it was agreed that if a total consensus on issues cannot be reached then a 2/3 majority vote will be utilized. This will help countries such as Mexico, Rwanda, Ecuador, and the EU that have been prominent in their call for global reduction targets on plastic production.  

The future INC venues have been decided to continue the negotiations and establish a binding agreement as dictated by the United Nations Environment Assembly. Hopefully, as these negotiations continue, they will establish policy and regulations that will put an end to plastic use while focusing on implementing a circular economy.  

What can you do?  

Governments are only discussing the end of plastic because of petitions, social media, and widespread discontent from the people. As this mandate is brought to negotiations, we must maintain this energy and continue to pressure our governments to ban plastic pollution.

Please use the #PlasticTreaty #BeatPlasticPollution.

Tell your MEP that you want a strong and ambitious treaty