Delegations of different governments across the world will gather in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss details of what could be the first global treaty to tackle the plastic pollution crisis.
Plastic waste is accelerating, projected to almost triple by 2060, with about half ending up in landfill and less than a fifth recycled, according to a 2022 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report. Greenpeace is calling for a reduction of at least 75% of plastic production by 2040, in order to keep greenhouse gas emissions within a 1.5C scenario.
A key focus for the discussions on Monday will be whether targets to restrict plastic production should be decided unilaterally or whether states should choose their own targets.
Recall that during the last negotiations in Paris in May run by the international negotiating committee (INC) the US, Saudi Arabia, India and China favoured a “Paris-style” agreement where states would have the freedom to determine their own commitments, while others, including Africa and many developing countries, preferred strong global commitments.
But observers say that there are signs of a shift in the US’s position on this key issue, though details have yet to emerge.
Graham Forbes, the global plastics campaign lead for Greenpeace USA said that the main takeaway for many environmental groups, after INC2 [the negotiations in Paris], was how bad the US position was, in terms of Paris-style voluntary commitments, adding that there had been signals of a shift.
“We are going to be watching very closely to see how that plays out. We need to be speaking about rules and putting in place regulations,”he said.
Last month, a “zero draft” version of the text published by the INC as the basis of negotiations over what the head of the United Nations Environment Programme has described as the most important multilateral treaty since the Paris accord in 2015. The goal is to have a formal treaty in place by the end of 2024. This third round of talks, in Kenya from 13-17 November, will mark the halfway point.
The “zero draft” captures many different perspectives from different governments. In the section relating to virgin plastic production, the draft sets out three options for working towards a reduction of primary plastic.
While the first involves a globally agreed target for reduction, (similar to the Montreal Protocol), the second involves global targets for production reduction, with nationally determined restrictions, similar to the Paris agreement. The third involves nationally determined targets and restrictions.
Tim Grabiel, a senior lawyer at the Environmental Investigations Agency, said that it was hoping for something between option one and two: “The Montreal Protocol is generally agreed to be the best multilateral environmental agreement in the world,” Grabiel said. “And we know, from the Paris agreement, that option number two doesn’t work. If you look at the global stock-take, with the hottest summer on record, which is likely to be the coldest summer for the rest of our lives, the shortcomings of the Paris agreement are becoming clear.”
“This is the centre of gravity for ambition and we will see, next week, where countries fall.” But, he acknowledged, “the geopolitics are very difficult on this issue. The big oil and chemical companies have not budged at all.”
Story was adapted from the Guardian.