Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 19, 2023


Julie Teel Simmonds, (619) 990-2999, (United States)
David Derrick, (510) 844-7135, (Kenya)

Third U.N. Plastics Treaty Talks End Without Firm Plan to Fight Production Threat

Many Parties Continue to Urge Reduction, Full Lifespan Approach

NAIROBI— The third session of the United Nations Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution, or INC-3, ended today with plans to compile a revised draft of an agreement before the end of the year. The forthcoming draft will be the basis of negotiation at the next session in April 2024, INC-4.

INC-3 did not yield concrete language or decisions on combatting plastic pollution, to the dismay of many advocates for the environment and public health. Parties also failed to reach an agreement about what work would be conducted before INC-4, making the negotiation ahead even more arduous.

“This negotiation session has been beyond frustrating,” said David Derrick, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, an observer at INC-3. “Hundreds of representatives from all over the world argued tirelessly all week, trying to protect the earth and human health from plastic pollution. But fossil fuel interests blocked those efforts, stalling progress on the plastic crisis.”

Throughout the week-long negotiations, U.N. member state delegates delivered statements and submitted suggested amendments to the text of the “zero draft” treaty version that served as the starting point for INC-3. Unlike at INC-2, discussions were largely free of disagreements about negotiation rules of procedure or other tangential matters that can serve as roadblocks to progress on substance.

The U.S. delegation has not made any firm public commitments to push for measures that curb plastic production.

Many country delegates and other groups in attendance as observers, including the Center and other members of the Break Free From Plastic movement, expressed support for strong treaty measures that would cut plastic production and address pollution at all stages of the material’s lifespan.

Participants, led by a delegation of environmental justice advocates, also called for a treaty that includes strong measures to protect frontline and fenceline communities from the “upstream” harms of plastic production, including air and water pollution, and not merely measures addressing “downstream” plastic issues, such as recycling and clean-up.

At the treaty’s preparatory session, the government of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced the formation of a “like-minded” coalition, consisting of historically fossil fuel-friendly nations. Iran also named the Russian Federation, China, Bahrain, Cuba and “many more” as members of that coalition. After that session, however, there was no public mention of the group again.

Several groups noted the heavy presence of industry representatives at INC-3 and called for policies to better address conflicts of interest in the negotiations. The Center also released an analysis of political spending by U.S. petrochemical and beverage industry groups lobbying at INC-3.

Representatives of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus attending the negotiations highlighted the lack of resources and support to ensure their strong participation. The caucus was not initially provided with a proper meeting space and did not receive assurance from the INC-3 Secretariat that their voices would be heard during sessions.

Many country statements recognized the importance of including Indigenous peoples in decision-making and considering Indigenous knowledge in protecting the environment and human health from plastic pollution.

Many member states also raised a need to acknowledge informal workers, and particularly waste pickers, in the treaty text. Several waste pickers and advocates urged parties to ensure a just transition in the event of changes to production and waste management systems.

“We aren’t giving up on the global plastics treaty,” Derrick said. “We won’t stop fighting until all people, wildlife and ecosystems are safe from plastic pollution.”

The next negotiating session, INC-4, will take place in Ottawa, Canada, in April 2024.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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