A third round of plastic talks ended in Nairobi on Sunday, with negotiators failing to achieve the goal of agreeing a draft treaty text for approval next year and observers blaming excessive influence from fossil fuel and petrochemicals lobbyists.
The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee’s third session (INC-3) had aimed to finalise a draft version of a new global treaty to reduce plastic pollution that could be assessed in the intersessional period leading up to INC-4 scheduled to be held in Ottawa next April.
But the 31-page “draft zero” text that had been prepared before the meetings now stands at more than 100 pages, with far more options and no mandate for the intersessional.
Negotiators have previously agreed to aim for a final deal before the end of 2024, but with only two more sessions to go, time is running out.
Observers blamed the failure in Nairobi on two factors – influence from industry lobbyists of which there were more than 140 at the talks, and a lack of ambition among many developed-country members of the so-called ‘High-ambition Coalition’.
“This week made clear that an overwhelming majority of countries demand an ambitious treaty that covers the full lifecycle of plastics,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).
“That treaty is still achievable in these talks, but only if negotiators acknowledge and confront the coordinated campaign by fossil fuel and petrochemical exporters to prevent real progress of any kind.”
A number of the industrial lobbyists attended as part of official delegations, and Melanie Bergmann, senior scientist with the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, in a post on social media platform X accused industry of allying with Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran to derail the process.
“What a disastrous ending to INC-3! No mandate for intersessional work was agreed, which is fundamental to develop a Plastics Treaty by 2024,” she said.
It remains entirely unclear what a final agreement might look like and especially how ambitious it might prove to be.
“The huge list of unresolved issues and the ongoing efforts to obstruct progress threaten to derail negotiations fully when they resume in Ottawa next year unless members demonstrate the political courage to take back the process,” CIEL said in its INC-3 comment.
The fifth and final INC session is planned to go ahead in South Korea in late 2024, though at the Nairobi talks, Ecuador, Senegal, Peru, and Rwanda all expressed interest in hosting a diplomatic conference on plastic pollution in 2025, according to the Earth negotiations Bulleting.
Rwanda and Peru indicated they might co-host such an event.
“The Global Plastics Treaty must reduce plastic production by at least 75% by 2040. We cannot protect our climate, our biodiversity, or our health unless we reduce plastic production,” said Graham Forbes, head of Greenpeace’s delegation to the talks.
“This is inarguable, but more than halfway through the treaty negotiations, we are charging towards catastrophe. Governments are allowing fossil fuel interests to drive the negotiations towards a treaty that will absolutely, without question, make the plastic problem worse and accelerate runaway climate change.”
By Stian Reklev –email@example.com