UN treaty talks end with call to cut plastic pollution

  • 170 countries attended global summit to debate plastic pollution treaty
  • 65, including UK, signed statement urging curbs to plastic production
  • ‘Significant disagreements’ remain on treaty’s final details
  • Next round of talks due in November
Plastic pollution

The INC treaty will be the first of its kind

The world could be a step closer to agreeing a treaty to end plastic pollution after 65 countries, including the UK, from the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) signed a joint ministerial statement urging legally binding production curbs at the end of UN talks in Canada.

Signed at the fourth round of the UN Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (INC-4), the statement called for the treaty to include a global commitment to end plastic pollution by 2040.

It specifically urged provisions that restrain the production and consumption of primary plastic polymers to sustainable levels and stressed the importance of scientific evidence of negative, plastic pollution related impacts on the environment and human health. 

The INC-4 talks, which took place in April and was attended by 170 member states, ended with a deal to set up a legal drafting group that would clarify the details of the treaty. The next round of talks will be in November in South Korea, when it is hoped the final treaty will be signed.

The aim of the treaty is to cover the full lifecycle of plastics, from production and consumption to waste management.

If agreed, it would be the first such treaty to be signed on a global scale. 

Steven Guilbeault, minister of environment and climate change for Canada, said if a treaty could be agreed it would “mark one of the most significant environmental decisions” and be a “first-of-its-kind agreement to unite the world around a shared goal to end plastic pollution.” 

However, despite the joint ministerial statement from the HAC, some cautioned that there remains some disagreement as to how the treaty will look. 

Rebecca Pow, UK environment minister, said: “There remains substantial differences between parties on the level of ambition for the treaty, which has meant progress has been slower than we would have hoped in some key areas. 

“Nonetheless, the UK was able to incorporate its proposal on problematic and avoidable plastics into the draft treaty text, and we are pleased that countries have agreed to progress these plans in the coming months.

“As a member of the High Ambition Coalition (HAC), the UK has continued to push for an ambitious treaty covering the full lifecycle of plastics. 

Pow said that the UK had also agreed a program of work that will be conducted ahead of the next meeting in November, giving expert groups the opportunity to meet and contribute to the design of the treaty. 

Luis Vayas Valdivieso, chair of the INC, said: “Let us negotiate with accountability and integrity – grounded in the scientific evidence and facts on the scale and urgency of ending plastic pollution.” 

Valdivieso continued: “We are here seeking to advance these negotiations and deliver a treaty because collectively we have recognized that multilateral cooperation… has a critical role to play in providing the effective and impactful solutions needed to end plastic pollution.” 

Written by:
Louise joined The Eco Experts as Editorial Assistant in April 2024. She is a talented artist who has a keen interest in solutions that lead to a more environmentally-friendly future.
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