UN Plastic Treaty negotiations conclude in Ottawa, Canada


Plastic pollution

The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution (INC-4) has concluded in Ottawa, Canada.

The session ended with an advanced draft text of the instrument and agreement on intersessional work ahead of the fifth session (INC-5) in November.

More than 2,500 delegates participated in INC-4, representing 170 Members and over 480 Observer organisations including non-governmental organisations, intergovernmental organisations, and UN entities.

Over the course of INC-4, delegates worked on negotiating the Revised Draft Text of the international legally binding instrument. Delegates discussed emissions and releases, production, product design, waste management, problematic and avoidable plastics, financing, and a “just transition”.

INC Members also agreed on intersessional work, which are meetings that take place between the official INC sessions. Members decided to form an open-ended Legal Drafting Group at INC-5 to serve in an advisory capacity by reviewing elements of the draft revised text.

We leave Ottawa having achieved both goals and a clear path to landing an ambitious deal in Busan ahead of us. 

The fourth session follows INC-1 in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in November 2022, INC-2 in Paris, France, in May/June 2023, and INC-3 in Nairobi, Kenya, in November 2023. The final session, INC-5, is scheduled for November 2024 in Busan, South Korea.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), commented: “We came to Ottawa to advance the text and with the hope that Members would agree on the intersessional work required to make even greater progress ahead of INC-5. We leave Ottawa having achieved both goals and a clear path to landing an ambitious deal in Busan ahead of us. 

“The work, however, is far from over. The plastic pollution crisis continues to engulf the world and we have just a few months left before the end-of-year deadline agreed upon in 2022. I urge members to show continued commitment and flexibility to achieve maximum ambition.”

The Bridge to Busan Declaration

INC-5 is scheduled for November 2024 in Busan, South Korea.

Over two dozen countries signed the Bridge to Busan Declaration on Primary Plastic Polymers at INC-4. The group aims to ensure that negotiators address the full lifecycle of plastics, including upstream measures to prevent the overproduction of primary plastics polymers at the source.

The group have called on member states to commit to achieving sustainable levels of production on primary plastic polymers, ensure transparency in production, and agree to a global objective regarding the sustainable production of primary plastic polymers.

Commenting on the negotiations, Christina Dixon, Ocean Campaign Leader, at Environmental Investigation Agency, said: “The end-of-year deadline to agree to an ambitious plastics treaty is looming with the talks effectively held hostage by a small group of countries. 

“The Bridge to Busan Declaration brings together developed and developing countries, land-locked and large ocean states, and even those who produce the feedstocks of plastics. 

“This unifying effort should be seen as a rallying call to protect the most important provision in the negotiations – the need to address the unsustainable levels of plastic production that are harming our health and environment.”

We want to see measures addressing the full-life cycle in order to eliminate the plastics we don’t need.

Rob Opsomer, Executive Lead of Plastics and Finance at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “With time running out to negotiate the treaty before the final round of talks in the Republic of Korea this November, we urge the delegations to redouble their efforts in progressing the relevant discussions intersessionally and to keep the ambition high in order to secure a strong treaty outcome at INC5.

“We remain committed to supporting the negotiations by sharing our insights and expertise and continuing to champion this once-in-a-generation opportunity for a UN treaty based on legally binding global rules and a comprehensive circular economy approach.

“Together with the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, convened by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and WWF, we want to see measures addressing the full-life cycle in order to eliminate the plastics we don’t need, innovate towards new materials and business models, and circulate any plastic we still need to ensure that we realise the vision of a world in which plastic never becomes waste or pollution.”

WWF issued the following statement from Erin Simon, vice president and head of plastic waste and business: “The pressure was on at INC-4 for countries to make up for lost time. With the world watching, negotiators made incremental progress by including some of the key ingredients needed for a successful treaty.

“With so much at risk, this problem will require global alignment on ways to reduce our use of plastic and stop it from leaking into nature. More work must be done between now and the final round of negotiations if we’re going to deliver an effective and legally binding treaty that people and the planet deserve.”


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