Global treaty against plastic: negotiations are slipping

Published on Nov 20, 2023 at 6:52 p.m.

Negotiations on the plastic treaty, which took place in Nairobi all last week, ended on a disappointing note on Sunday evening. The initial text, the “zero draft” as diplomats say, has evolved very slightly, but none of the major advances expected by the countries most committed to banning plastic at the global level has been ratified.

“None of the levers of action have been removed, we have not removed anything,” consoles those around the Minister of Ecological Transition, Christophe Béchu. The principle of reducing plastic production globally, currently estimated at 460 million tonnes, remains the stated objective, but without any deadline and above all without agreement on the extent of the reduction. . This first version of the future treaty therefore remains far below expectations.

Likewise, the negotiators who are members of the High Ambition Coalition, which brings together the most proactive countries, have not succeeded in obtaining a ban list of the most dangerous plastics for human health.

Obstruction maneuvers

This negotiation is certainly a transitional stage, because two other sessions must be held before a legally binding global treaty can be concluded. One is to be held in Ottawa next April, the last at the end of next year in South Korea.

But the work between the different sessions, essential to being able to move forward on the discussion points, was blocked by certain countries, Saudi Arabia and Russia in the lead, who did everything to slow down the process: “This is our main regret,” emphasizes the cabinet of Christophe Béchu, because this will considerably slow down the negotiation.”

Several NGOs have also regretted that oil-producing countries resort to systematic obstructionist maneuvers. “This week, producing countries and plastic lobbies did everything to slow down efforts to negotiate a binding treaty covering the entire life cycle of plastic,” reacted Charlotte Soulary, advocacy manager for Zero Waste France.

Conflicts of interest

The question of conflicts of interest has repeatedly come up in the mouths of NGOs because the delegations of oil-producing countries, and therefore suppliers of raw materials for the manufacture of plastic, include many industrialists in the sector.

Several NGOs have thus demanded that the next intergovernmental negotiations “establish a solid policy on conflicts of interest and reess how to deal with countries which deliberately block the ambition of the negotiation process”.

Should we see this as a foretaste of what could happen at COP 28 in Dubai? “The subjects are linked, because plastic is a product resulting from petrochemicals, but the dynamics are not necessarily the same,” analyzes one of the members of the French delegation.

Positive point despite everything, the list of member countries of the High Ambition Coalition has expanded to include Malawi in particular, and the discourse of South-East Asian countries, very reluctant until now to ambitious plastic reduction objectives , has significantly declined.

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