The anticipation was palpable at the standing-room only opening of the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-1) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
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After a rousing cultural performance by the Ballet Nacional de Sodre, Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, Executive Secretary, INC Secretariat, officially opened the meeting. Luis Lacalle Pou, President of Uruguay, expressed hope that this meeting will go down in history as a starting point to catalyze results towards ending plastic pollution. He highlighted the importance of: knowledge; individual, corporate and state responsibility; and optimism on the road towards a treaty.
Inger Andersen, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UNEP, reiterated that to build an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) addressing the lifecycle of plastic, there is a need for broad participation, science, stakeholder engagement, and innovative thinking. Adrián Peña, Minister of Environment, Uruguay, among others, highlighted the country’s new deposit-return scheme for plastic packaging.
Having elected Gustavo Meza-Cuadra, Peru, as INC Chair, delegates then addressed two pressing procedural matters: the election of the INC bureau and the outstanding matters related to the rules of procedure. They agreed to postpone decisions on both to later in the week, allowing INC Chair Meza-Cuadra time to consult with relevant states towards consensus.
Delegates then embarked on their discussions on the preparation of an ILBI on plastic pollution, outlining their priorities, with some points of convergence broadly beginning to emerge. Key on this list was the nature of a future agreement. Many delegations prioritized a specific global treaty addressing the lifecycle of plastic pollution, with a few calling for a framework convention primarily implemented through national action plans.
Other points of convergence related to the need for a dedicated finance source, with several delegations calling for a multilateral fund mirroring that under the Montreal Protocol on the protection of the ozone layer.