Global Negotiations on Plastics Pollution Treaty conclude in Ottawa

Delegates gathered for the fourth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) session in Ottawa, Canada, to finalize a legally binding instrument to tackle plastics pollution, particularly in marine environments. After over seven days of intense negotiations, INC-4 concluded with a call for clarity and progress.

Over 2,500 people joined INC-4, which had representatives from 170 countries and more than 480 groups like non-governmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations, and UN agencies. This INC meeting was the biggest and most inclusive one yet, with nearly fifty percent more observers taking part.

During the closing plenary, Chair Luis Vayas Valdivieso proposed the establishment of a legal drafting group to ensure the clarity of the future agreement’s text. “During these seven days of intense deliberations, you – the delegates – have managed to build on and advance the revised draft text of the instrument, providing streamlined text and entering textual negotiations on several elements,” Ambassador Vayas said.

“At the same time, we also leave with a much clearer picture of the work that remains to be done, if we are to deliver on the promise that Members have made through UNEA Resolution 5/14.”  

Additionally, two intercessional expert groups were established to analyze potential sources and means for implementation of the objectives of the instrument and to identify criteria and approaches regarding plastic pollution and chemicals of concern.

Throughout the session, delegates considered and modified parts of the Revised Draft Text, focusing on issues such as emissions and releases; production; product design; waste management; problematic and avoidable plastics; financing, and a just transition. They engaged in discussions on identifying problematic and avoidable plastics, with diverging views on regulatory measures and global vs. national criteria.

A picture illustrating plastics pollution in ocean source UNEP platform

“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,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“The work, however, is far from over. The plastics 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.”

A final meeting on financing highlighted the importance of establishing a financial mechanism for the future agreement’s implementation. However, delegates were unable to agree on convening a resumed session of INC-4.

INC-4 closed with acknowledgment of the remaining challenges in narrowing understanding gaps and bridging divides on the scope and objective of the treaty. Despite the planned intersessional work, there is recognition that significant effort is still needed to prepare for INC-5.

The session’s conclusion marked a step forward in the global effort to combat plastic pollution, but much work remains to be done. With INC-5 on the horizon, delegates are committed to continued collaboration and progress in addressing this pressing environmental issue.

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