Session for the first global plastics treaty underway in Ottawa


The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop a legally binding international instrument on plastic pollution opened in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa.

Nations agreed at the UN Environment Assembly in March 2022 to work together to reach a legally binding treaty by the end of 2024.

Countries are divided, however, on whether the agreement should focus on waste management and recycling or more ambitious targets such as limits on production and the phasing out of certain types of plastic.

The talks follow a contentious round of treaty negotiations in Nairobi, where countries including Saudi Arabia disagreed over language about production limits. The last set of talks will take place in Busan, South Korea in December.

Members will also decide on inter-sessional work — informal INC sessions taking place between the official meetings — required between the INC-4 and INC-5, to support the further development of the text.

INC-4, which began on Tuesday, is the penultimate stage of the negotiations; it follows three earlier rounds of negotiations: INC-1, which took place in Punta del Este, in November 2022; INC-2, which was held in Paris in June 2023; and INC-3, which happened in Nairobi in November 2023.

“We are seeing convergence on eliminating the uses that are problematic and avoidable. We will continue to need plastic for specific uses, such as renewable energy technologies. But there is growing agreement that short-lived and single-use can go,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.

“We can be proud of what we have achieved. But a job half-done is a job not done. Time is against us — both in terms of finalising the instrument and how much more the planet can take. As we deliberate, plastic pollution continues to gush into ecosystems,” she added.

“So, I ask for INC-4 to show energy, commitment, collaboration, and ambition. To make progress. And set the stage for INC-5 to finalise an instrument that will end plastic pollution, once and for all.”

“We are here seeking to advance these negotiations and deliver a treaty because collectively we have recognised that multilateral cooperation — this INC process, a new legally binding international instrument — has a critical role to play in providing the effective and impactful solutions needed to end plastic pollution. The spirit of multilateralism is: ‘together, we are stronger’,” said Luis Vayas Valdivieso, Chair of the INC.

“Let us negotiate with accountability and integrity — grounded in the scientific evidence and facts on the scale and urgency of ending plastic pollution. Let us also approach this task with optimism, that it is both necessary and possible for us to achieve this new treaty,” he added.

The start of INC-4 was preceded by regional consultations and a conversation with observers, and Canada hosted a Partnerships Day and a Ministerial Day on the sidelines of the session.

“Agreeing to a global agreement on plastic pollution by the end of 2024 would mark one of the most significant environmental decisions and would be a first-of-its-kind agreement to unite the world around a shared goal to end plastic pollution,” said Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, IANS reported.

“Canada has put in place several measures to stem the tide of plastic pollution at home, and we are keen to keep up the momentum for a global agreement that aligns with our ambition. We welcome delegations, partners, and stakeholders from around the world to Ottawa for INC-4 to continue the ambitious work needed to achieve this united goal.”

At the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in February 2024, Canada convened the other host countries of the INC process — France, Kenya, Korea, and Uruguay — for a ministerial meeting, under the umbrella of the Host Country Alliance, to galvanise momentum toward the global instrument.

“Seize this opportunity, make these seven days count, and deliver a text that is as close as possible to the final agreement that we all want to see,” said Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, Executive Secretary of the INC.

“You delegates know the issues that need to be addressed at this session, and that flexibility will be needed to reach a consensus. This is the only way forward.”

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