Eager to finally get to work, delegates delved further into the potential architecture of the future treaty to address plastic pollution, with day 4 fully devoted to exploring technical options in the contact groups.

Splitting into two contact groups, delegates shared their priorities for the future treaty, basing their comments on the document containing potential options for elements towards an international legally binding instrument, based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastics as called for by UN Environment Assembly resolution 5/14.

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As negotiations turn to substantive matters, two contact groups take place throughout the day

As negotiations turn to substantive matters, two contact groups take place throughout the day

In the contact group on objectives, core obligations, control measures and voluntary approaches, they considered options related to, among others:

  • phasing out and/or reducing the supply of, demand for, and use of, primary plastic polymers;
  • regulating primary plastic polymers;
  • banning, phasing out and/or reducing the use of problematic and avoidable plastic products;
  • banning, phasing out and/or reducing the production, consumption and use of chemicals and polymers of concern; and
  • reducing nano- and microplastics.

Considering the large array of options, delegates worked to make best use of their allocated time, in which the most common differing view was on whether to establish global mandates, or make use of nationally determined measures for implementation. Many delegations noted knowledge gaps, and called for intersessional work for clear definitions that could inform delegations' work at INC-3.

Some countries highlighted the value of plastics in the economy and society, and cautioned against bans, limits or reduction of manufacturing, export and import of virgin plastic polymers. Others urged strong upstream measures, considering the impact polymers can have on human health and the environment. Some delegations warned of the risk of new problems when trying to find substitutes for plastics. Others highlighted that incorrect labelling could contribute to confusion and greenwashing. Many noted the need to address national circumstances when addressing waste collection and recycling systems, recommending this should be addressed through national action plans.

Delegates listen to the deliberations in the contact group

Delegates listen to the deliberations in the contact group

In the contact group addressing issues related to means of implementation, several delegations stressed the link between means of implementation and national action plans, and called for the means of implementation to be aligned with the substantive obligations under the future treaty. Delegations debated the inclusion of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities. Many delegates indicated a preference for an integrated approach to means of implementation, while some preferred stand-alone provisions.

In their discussions on cooperation and coordination, delegations prioritized cooperation with, among others, the Basel Convention, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Several called for enhancing synergies with the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, the Abidjan Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the MARPOL Convention, the Ramsar Convention, and the Regional Seas conventions.

The groups worked hard to get through the text throughout the day and into the night, with a further round of talks on the options paper potentially scheduled for Friday morning, before the final plenary of INC-2.

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All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For INC-2, please use: Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth.