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, - Posted on November 13, 2023

#BreakFreeFromPlastic responds to the formation of a group of ‘like-minded’ plastic-producing countries led by Iran and Saudi Arabia that could counter ambition in the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations

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Nairobi, Nov 13, 2023 - At the opening plenary of the third round of negotiations on the Global Plastics Treaty (INC-3) that started this morning in Nairobi, the government of Iran took the floor on behalf of a  “group of like-minded countries” they first announced as the ‘Global Coalition for Plastics Sustainability’ during the INC-3 preparatory meeting on Saturday. While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also referred to this new coalition in their statement on Saturday, no further information has been publicly shared about this new formation, and no other purported members identified by Iran (the Russian Federation, Bahrain, China, Cuba, and “many more”) have spoken out publicly about it.

The #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement responds to this announcement with the following statement:

Given the urgent need for substantive discussions on the Global Plastics Treaty this week, the announcement of a coalition by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and [if confirmed] Russia shouldn’t come as a surprise. All three countries are leading producers and exporters of fossil fuels (1), which comprise 99% of all plastics (2), and all major producers of plastics and petrochemicals (3). Because confronting the plastic crisis demands reductions, both in plastic production and in the use of fossil fuels for that production (4), these countries have repeatedly sought to obstruct and delay progress within the negotiations, pushing a waste management focus and rejecting work on the upstream part of the plastic pollution issue. This is in stark contradiction to the clear, comprehensive, and ambitious mandate established by the world at UNEA 5.2, which aims at covering the entire life cycle of plastic.

What is more surprising and disappointing, if true, is Iran’s assertion that China is part of this coalition. While China hasn’t confirmed this alignment, such a step would be incompatible with their ongoing efforts to play a larger leadership role in the international community (5), their early and active measures to tackle plastic pollution at the domestic level (6), and their commitment to drastically reducing CO2 emissions (7). 

Given the rapidly increasing contribution of plastic and petrochemicals to those greenhouse gas emissions at the global level (8), any country’s alignment with the obstruction efforts by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Russia is fundamentally at odds with a genuine commitment to addressing the intersecting planetary crises of climate change, plastic pollution, and global biodiversity loss.

The #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement and its more than 3,000 member organizations worldwide will continue to be vigilant throughout the negotiation process to ensure member states deliver a strong Plastics Treaty that is not undermined by fossil fuel interests and instead addresses the full life cycle of plastics and drastically cuts global plastic production. 

Signed by #BreakFreeFromPlastic treaty leading organizations: Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA), Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Greenpeace.



#BreakFreeFromPlastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 3,000 organizations and 11,000 individual supporters from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. BFFP member organizations and individuals share values of environmental protection and social justice and work together through a holistic approach to bring about systemic change. This means tackling plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain—from extraction to disposal—focusing on prevention rather than cure and providing effective solutions.


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Notes to the editor

(1) International Energy Agency, Oil 2023 & Medium-Term Gas Report 2023

(2) Zaman et al., Plastics: are they part of the zero-waste agenda or the toxic-waste agenda?, 2021 

(3) Bauer et al., Petrochemicals and climate change: Powerful fossil fuel lock-ins and interventions for transformative change, 2023

(4) Persson et al., Outside the Safe Operating Space of the Planetary Boundary for Novel Entities, 2022

(5) Including their helpful role in the Basel Convention amendments, building on their Operation National Sword (waste trade bans)

(6) In particular through the 14th Five-Year Plan for circular economy development and 14th Five Year Action Plan for Plastic Pollution Control

(7) China aims to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

(8) CIEL, Reducing Plastic Production to Achieve Climate Goals: Key Considerations for the Plastics Treaty Negotiations, 2023

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