Daily report for 13 November 2023

3rd Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to Develop an International Legally Binding Instrument on Plastic Pollution, Including in the Marine Environment (INC-3)

Delegates commenced the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) to develop an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. They opened discussions on the Zero Draft of the ILBI, sharing general views on the text and on the mandate for the contact groups to be established later in the week.


Highlighting measures taken to increase physical capacity for participation at the meeting, Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, Executive Secretary, INC Secretariat, called on delegates to move forward swiftly to ensure that an ILBI is achieved by the end of 2024, underscoring that “we hold in our hands the power to correct this destructive course,” to “heal our planet,” and to protect the “intricate and fragile web of life that sustains us all.” INC Chair Gustavo Meza-Cuadra called on delegates to capitalize on the Nairobi Spirit of consensus which had delivered the mandate to negotiate the ILBI, through UNEA resolution 5/14. Pointing to the Zero Draft as a starting point, he called on the INC to agree on a mandate to prepare a revised draft and possible intersessional work towards INC-4.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen recalled that UNEA resolution 5/14 provided a mandate to develop an ILBI that is based on “a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastic,” noting that this must encompass the plastics value chain from polymers to pollution, and establish ambitious targets with accelerated timelines. Urging delegates to support the country’s bid to host the treaty secretariat, Kenya’s President William Samoei Ruto called on the INC to agree on a treaty that: brings overall plastic production to sustainable levels; addresses existing plastic pollution; and operationalizes the Rio Principles.

Organizational Matters

Adoption of the agenda and organization of work: Delegates adopted the agenda (UNEP/PP/INC.3/1 and add.1) and organization of work (UNEP/PP/INC.3/2).

Rules of procedure (RoP): INC Chair Meza-Cuadra recalled delegates had agreed to the provisional application of the RoP (UNEP/PP/INC.3/3). Addressing the concern expressed by INDIA, he underlined that the Committee had no intention of invoking rule 38 (adoption of decisions), also pointing to the interpretative statement agreed at INC-2. Delegates agreed to proceed on this basis.

Election of Officers

INC Chair Meza-Cuadra informed delegates that Estonia had resigned as Vice-Chair and called on Eastern European States to nominate a new Vice-Chair later in the week.

Preparation of an ILBI on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment

Report of the preparatory meeting: INC Chair Meza-Cuadra introduced the synthesis report (UNEP/PP/INC.3/INF/1) on elements not discussed at INC-2. Preparatory meeting Co-Facilitators Marine Collignon (France) and Danny Rahdiansyah (Indonesia) reported on the discussions related to the preamble, definitions, scope, principles, institutional arrangements, and final provisions of the future ILBI, as well as possible topics and modalities for intersessional work.

General statements: INC Chair Meza-Cuadra introduced the Zero Draft (UNEP/PP/INC.3/4), pointing to the options contained therein. He encouraged delegates to identify convergence, gaps, and/or options to be deleted.

The PHILIPPINES, for the ASIA PACIFIC GROUP, highlighted the importance of, among others: good faith and consensus-based decision making; a comprehensive lifecycle approach to address legacy and existing plastics; greater balance in the Zero Draft; the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples and local knowledge systems; enhancing circularity; means of implementation (MoI); national action plans (NAPs); international cooperation; and avoiding duplication among existing agreements and instruments.

GHANA, for the AFRICAN GROUP, prioritized, inter alia: sustainable production and consumption of plastic; eliminating problematic plastics and chemicals of concern; information disclosure along the plastics value chain; just transition; effective measures for remediation of legacy plastics; a new dedicated multilateral fund; advanced infrastructure and capacity building; using best available science and knowledge; private sector and stakeholder engagement; and addressing transboundary movement of plastic. The group supported Kenya’s bid to host the future treaty secretariat.

URUGUAY, for GRULAC, supported, among others: obligations and control measures across the full plastics lifecycle; international cooperation, research, and education; adhering to the Rio Principles; criteria to determine hazardous materials; promoting environmentally sound substitutes; and creating a new dedicated fund. She also highlighted the vulnerabilities of small island developing states (SIDS).

SAMOA, on behalf of AOSIS, highlighted the need for, inter alia: MoI with specific provisions for SIDS; risk evaluations for chemicals, polymers, and plastic products; the full recognition of special circumstances of SIDS; the use of best available data; the design of obligations, taking into account national context; the regulation of abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear and plastics in the marine environment including in the high seas; addressing legacy and future plastic; and a new financial mechanism.

SPAIN, for the EUROPEAN UNION, underlined the commitment of the region to fill knowledge gaps and lay the groundwork for INC-4. Indicating that the Zero Draft covers many, but not all, of their proposals, he reiterated their readiness to put more work into advancing the text. Stressing the need to address the triple planetary crisis and achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs), he stated that the ILBI will create more opportunities than burdens on countries.

While acknowledging that plastic has improved lives, Palau, for PACIFIC SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES (PSIDS), underscored that this should not be used as pretext to weaken the future treaty, and called for consideration of the special circumstances of SIDS, including with regard to MoI for addressing the full lifecycle of plastics.

OMAN, for the GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL (GCC), underlined the importance of plastics to human life, noting its contribution to trade and economic development. Referring to the ILBI, he called for the inclusion of clear-cut principles to ensure due consideration of national circumstances and capacities of all countries, and urged a just transition to enable wider access to technology and innovation for plastic waste control and management.

SOLOMON ISLANDS, for the HIGH AMBITION COALITION, reiterated a call for, inter alia, restraining consumption and production of primary plastic polymers; avoiding problematic and avoidable plastic products; addressing chemicals of concern; and eliminating microplastics. He called for viable provisions to ensure effective reporting and transparency for mobilizing MoI.

SINGAPORE, for the COORDINATING BODY ON THE SEAS OF EAST ASIA (COBSEA), proposed introducing reasonable timelines in order to allow markets to adjust, and enable countries to develop tailored measures for scaling up efforts to address plastic waste.

IRAN, for the LIKE-MINDED GROUP, stressed that a clear mandate was needed to ensure inclusivity in the process and the incorporation of all views in the Zero Draft. He called for a contact group to produce an updated zero draft (UNEP/PP/INC.3/4) including in-session submissions and discussions as presented, without alterations or interpretations, and for this updated draft to be presented to the Committee for review and revisions on Wednesday or Thursday. INC Chair Meza-Cuadra took note of the request.

SAUDI ARABIA stressed the importance of striking a “delicate equilibrium” between the interests of all members, lamenting that the current Zero Draft lacks balance. CUBA expressed concern that the Zero Draft does not adequately reflect all views shared.

Remarking that the document does not reflect the country’s position and remains unbalanced regarding the vital role of plastics in the world, the RUSSIAN FEDERATION said that the current Zero Draft prejudges “the direction of negotiations” and exceeds the mandate of UNEA resolution 5/14, underlining that it cannot be considered as a starting point for negotiations until all concerns are reflected. IRAN underscored that the ILBI should: not address plastic raw materials or production, or trade; and enshrine CBDR and the sovereign rights of states to exploit their own resources.

ARGENTINA, with BRAZIL and FIJI, underscored, among others, financing through a dedicated fund; and called for a revised draft for consideration by INC-4. ANGOLA supported the development of NAPs, and ensuring a just transition. INDONESIA called for recognizing countries with special geographical conditions, including archipelagic countries, and countries vulnerable to plastic pollution.

BRAZIL emphasized needs and realities of developing countries and said ILBI implementation will be successful if it is seen through the lens of sustainable development. COLOMBIA called for provisions based on precaution and acting early to prevent negative environmental and human health effects. PERU urged moving towards a circular economy and including a provision for a just transition for recyclers.

PAKISTAN underscored the value of plastics and noted that mismanagement has become a global crisis. IRAQ called to differentiate between polymers and plastics. BANGLADESH drew attention to special circumstances of downstream developing countries, and called for discussions in a contact group on this.

FIJI called for time-bound and measurable provisions without rewriting existing principles, covering the full lifecycle from extraction to end-of-life. JORDAN called for a universal instrument covering the full lifecycle of plastics, including all stakeholders. JAPAN called for, among others: ambitious time-bound targets to reduce plastic by 2040, based on national measures related to circularity; preventing leakages; and including upstream, downstream and midstream measures in an annex.

NIGERIA opined that the Zero Draft reflected all views and urged support for developing countries and countries with economies in transition. JAMAICA called to ensure the ILBI complemented international rules on trade, public health, and labor. GUINEA urged further development of the Zero Draft and Synthesis report; and called for continued discussions on intersessional work.

SINGAPORE underlined the need to narrow down potential options and called for an enhanced focus on environmentally sound and safe waste management. GEORGIA emphasized the need to further develop public private partnerships for addressing plastic pollution.

The US stressed that any proposed modifications to the text should be treated on equal footing with the Zero Draft, adding that this should be a clear mandate to contact groups. He underlined that the INC-3 outcome should be a working draft text, including all views. CANADA called for a complete draft text for consideration at INC-4. The REPUBLIC OF KOREA called for the next version of draft text to address the circular economy and highlighted the need to consider the feasibility of NAPs.

YEMEN urged continued cooperation in developing the ILBI. SOUTH AFRICA proposed a science-based approach in identifying problematic products and the operationalization of CBDR through a dedicated financial mechanism. COSTA RICA, with DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, called for the negotiations in contact groups to begin as soon as possible. TUNISIA called on the Committee to provide a clear mandate and timetable for continued development of the text.

TÜRKIYE underscored that the ILBI should be applicable to all countries, taking into account their respective circumstances. BAHRAIN called for the ILBI to consider socioeconomic aspects, and a just transition. MALAYSIA reflected that plastic pollution is also a socio-economic dilemma, requiring a path towards country-led sustainability.

CAMEROON called for the ILBI to address, among others, chemicals of concern, waste management, plastic alternatives, and a circular economy. CHILE highlighted the importance of including the Ocean, which is directly affected by plastic pollution, and underscored the need for MoI, best available science, and a just transition.

Calling for a dedicated multilateral fund, INDIA stressed that the mandate of UNEA resolution 5/14 must not be exceeded, underlining that the ILBI should not create binding targets or caps on polymer production. GHANA called for a reference to the Bamako Convention on the import of hazardous waste.

The PHILIPPINES welcomed the ambition of the Zero Draft provision with regard to, inter alia, binding global and nationally determined targets, and global standards and criteria.

SWITZERLAND proposed a two-step approach to reviewing the Zero Draft, starting with an initial reading of the text in contact groups; followed by a review of potential new elements, elimination of text lacking support, and identifying areas to be refined.

EGYPT called for ensuring MoI for the future ILBI, following an incremental and bottom-up approach. QATAR, with UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, SAUDIA ARABIA, and BAHRAIN, emphasized the need for ensuring consensus on the Zero Draft.

CHINA underlined that consensus had yet to be reached on important elements of the Zero Draft, emphasizing that it did not adequately indicate that leakage and unsound waste management contributes to plastic pollution. Discussions will continue on Tuesday.

In the Breezeways

Returning to Nairobi 18 months after UNEA took the historic decision to end plastic pollution, delegates welcomed the opportunity to engage in textual negotiations towards a new treaty. The pressure to deliver was palpable. UNEP Executive Director reminded delegates of the mandate to address the full lifecycle of plastic, from production to legacy waste, while Kenya’s president declared that the clock was loudly ticking towards 2024, when the INC will need to finalize a treaty that will “change humanity’s relationship with the planet.”

With the draft before them, some were optimistic that the Committee would be able to meet the ambitious target of hammering out a new treaty by the end of 2024. “Let’s leave all distractions behind now,” shared one seasoned observer, “and keep our eyes on the prize.” Others, however, were more cautious. “We do indeed have a Zero Draft, but we can’t proceed effectively until we see at least some of our views reflected in it,” shared one delegate, “the draft is just not as balanced as we hoped it would be.”

In this regard, the committee was unable to follow up on the planned establishment of contact groups on Monday, despite several calls to “use our time wisely.” In the breezeways, some whispered that the delay was due to a lack of clarity on how to deal with submissions not included in the Zero Draft. “Hopefully, this will be resolved swiftly, and we can all get down to it,” hoped one delegate.

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