, , - Posted on November 20, 2023

Petrochemical Interests Jeopardize Plastics Treaty Negotiations

Despite a strong call by civil society, countries could not reach consensus on the intersessional work for next round of negotiations

Comms Hub
Break Free From Plastic movement members stand together holding up a banner saying Plastic Pollution Kills

Nairobi, Kenya – The third meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) for a global agreement to end plastic pollution concluded today at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi. Despite a mandate for a revised draft, Member States failed to reach an agreement on priorities for intersessional work ahead of INC-4, despite an 11th-hour attempt, jeopardizing significant advancements for the treaty process. 

With the petrochemical influence in the treaty negotiations, including the ‘low ambition’ of a group of ‘like-minded’ plastic-producing countries, and the lack of ambition by the so-called ‘high ambition’ countries, the INC-3 concluded without concrete headway towards the mandate adopted at the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) to negotiate a comprehensive and legally binding treaty that will cover measures along the entire life cycle of plastic.

After seven days of negotiations, the INC-3 missed the opportunity to set the stage for ambitious intersessional work on any priority, including the development of targets, baselines, and schedules for an overall reduction in plastic production, as well as strict reporting mechanisms to inform and monitor compliance with a global reduction target.

Despite the disappointing outcome of this INC, some countries, particularly from the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the Africa group, strongly supported provisions on addressing plastic production, chemicals of concern, protecting human and environmental health, as well as human rights, recognizing the importance of Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, and defining the path for a just transition. However, the influence of a group of fossil fuel and plastic-producing countries overpowered these perspectives. 

Member States still have an opportunity to deliver one of the most significant environmental agreements in history by the end of 2024, but chances ahead are looking more formidable than it did after INC-2, now with only two more INCs remaining. The INCs must establish a strong conflict of interest policy and reassess how to deal with the countries deliberately blocking the ambition of the negotiation process. 

 

Break Free From Plastic members react to the end of the Plastics Treaty INC-3:

Daniela Duran, Senior Legal Campaigner, Upstream Plastic Treaty, Center for International Environmental Law (USA & Switzeland), said:

"INC-3 is ending with a strong call for Member States not to lose sight of the essential treaty we require: one that makes concrete and legally binding commitments to reduce primary plastics production, safeguarding human and environmental health, and prioritizing communities affected by systemic pollution. We enter the road to INC-4 with this option on the table, with wide support from countries, but with roadblocks raised here by fossil fuel interests that didn’t enable a meaningful advance.”

Jacob Kean-Hammerson Oceans Campaigner, Environmental Investigation Agency (UK), said:

“With only two INCs left and little over a year to finalise the Treaty, the path towards a strong final agreement looks treacherous. These negotiations ended with more questions than answers about how we can bridge the political divide and craft a Treaty that stimulates positive change. As always the devil is in the details, so it is crucial that ambitious states stand firm against attempts to weaken progress by some of the world’s major oil and petrochemical producers. There will be no true advancement over the next year without a much stronger focus on addressing the problem with overproduction and the world’s addiction to plastics.”

Swathi Seshadri, Director of Programs and Team Lead (Oil and Gas), Centre for Financial Accountability (India), said:

"It was also disheartening that some member states were unwilling to work towards a Treaty covering the full lifecycle... It is disappointing and unfortunate that fossil fuel extracting and petrochemical countries were not able to see the life altering impacts that petrochemicals, the feedstocks to make plastics, has on people. It is time that member states resisting upstream measures realise that they are accountable to people who live in the vicinity of toxic petrochemical plants and not only concern themselves with the benefits that a handful of corporations will make. The only way forward is to regulate plastic production and eventually phase out virgin plastics."

Ana Rocha, Director of Global Plastics Program, Global Alliance for Incineration Alternative (Tanzania), said:

“These negotiations have so far failed to deliver on their promise laid out in the agreed upon mandate to advance a strong, binding plastics treaty that the world desperately needs. The bullies of the negotiations pushed their way through, despite the majority countries, with leadership from the African Bloc and other nations in the Global South, in support of an ambitious treaty.”

Jo Banner, Co-Founder and Co-Director, Descendants Project (USA), said:

“As a Black woman in the United States who also lives on the fenceline of petrochemical companies, I have seen first hand the devastating impacts the upstream production of plastic has had on my community and other vulnerable populations. I am here in Africa, of all places, to participate in the negotiations toward our liberation from the literal chains of plastic and confront the industry that wants to keep us enslaved to it.”

Taylen Reddy, #BreakFreeFromPlastic Youth Ambassador (South Africa), said:

“African youth are rising to confront and call out the plastics industry, and all those that profit from the plastics crisis that we are facing today. We recognise that this environmental catastrophe is something that we were born into, yet we remain hopeful and confident in ourselves to shift the narrative onto producer accountability and push for the dismantling of extractivism - which has become the norm due to centuries of exploitation of the planet and her people. This includes urging the importance of kicking out polluters and all those that are at INC to further their own corporate agenda. We NEED ambitious targets to reduce plastic production NOW!”

Larisa de Orbe, Colectiva Malditos Plásticos (México), said: 

“Latin America is affected by the transboundary trade of toxic plastic waste from rich countries. This instrument should not duplicate the mandate and scope of the Basel Convention, but it should fill its gaps: definitively ban the export of plastic waste, and not allow pyrolysis - or other forms of incineration, co-processing, and false solutions such as chemical ‘recycling,’ and plastic credits.”

Indumathi, Asia delegation and an affiliate of the International Alliance of Waste Pickers (AIW), India.

"At INC3, We had three demands: to recognize waste picker contributions; formally define waste pickers and the informal sector; Just Transition should be cross-referenced throughout the documents. I am happy that waste pickers were a part of the draft-making process. The Just Transition discussion is yet to happen, and if it does, I will be very happy."

 

Additional reactions from BFFP members and allies (including additional countries and languages) are available here.

 

The week in detail

Most of the INC-3 week was spent in three contact groups: (1) Contact group 1 reviewed the first two parts of the Zero Draft: Part I (Preamble, objective, definitions, principles, and scope) and Part II (Primary plastic polymers, chemicals and polymers of concerns, problematic and avoidable plastics, exertions, product design -including reuse-, substitutes, extended producer responsibility, emissions, waste management, trade, existing plastic pollution, just transition, and transparency). (2) Contact group 2 focused on the second two parts: Part III (financing and capacity building), and Part IV (National plans, implementation and compliance, reporting, and monitoring). (3) Lastly, contact group 3 discussed the Synthesis Report containing elements not discussed at previous meetings and intersessional work.

During the week, civil organizations exposed the conflict of interest within the INC-3 process, starting with the publication of an analysis of the participants revealing that 143 fossil fuel and chemical industry lobbyists registered for INC-3, a 36% increase from INC-2; some of whom were registered under six Member States delegations. The number of industry lobbyists was significantly greater than the 38 participants from the Scientists Coalition for an Effective Plastics Treaty. Earlier in the week, civil organizations also reacted to the formation of a “like-minded” group emerging among some plastic-producing countries.

The INC-3 agreed that the next round of negotiations (INC-4) will be held in Ottawa, Canada, on 21 - 30 April  2024, and INC-5 in Busan, Republic of Korea on 25 November to 1 December 2024. Ambassador Luis Vayas Valdiviezo (Ecuador) was confirmed as Chair for the rest of the INC process. 

 

###

 

Notes to the editor

 

About the video: Ahead of INC-3, #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement, young people, civic society and allies march on the streets of Nairobi calling for drastic reduction in global plastic production.

---

About BFFP #BreakFreeFromPlastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in 2016, more than 2,700 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 the 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. www.breakfreefromplastic.org.

Global Press Contacts: 

Regional Press Contacts: 

 

© 2023 Break Free From Plastic. All right reserved.