The ICLRC took part in the third session of negotiations on an international treaty on plastic pollution

The Center’s experts participated as observers in the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) to develop an international treaty on plastic pollution under the auspices of UNEP, held on November 13-19 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Substantive discussions were based on a zero draft of the future instrument published in September 2023 in three contact groups.

The mandate of the first group was to review sections I (objectives) and II (main aspects of plastic pollution control) of the zero draft. Much attention was paid to the scope of the future treaty from a plastic life cycle perspective. Most countries noted that the scope of application was clearly defined in UNEA Resolution 5/14, but that States had different approaches to the key concept of the full life cycle enshrined in the Resolution: some States considered it to cover the stages from product to waste, while others suggested that regulation should start at the point of raw material extraction and polymer production. In addition, several countries noted that virgin polymers are not within the mandate of the Resolution, which means pollution rather than regulation of plastics production.

Pollution control measures have also caused a lot of controversy, primarily in terms of proposals to establish restrictions on the production of certain categories of plastic products, requirements for packaging of products, elimination of current pollution, monitoring system and disclosure of information on the chemical composition of all types of plastics and plastic products throughout their life cycle.

The second group discussed measures and means of implementation of the future instrument, including financing and capacity building. The main disagreement was over financial support: developed countries were more in favor of using the existing financial mechanism, while developing countries stood up for creating a new one.

Regarding progress monitoring and reporting, many countries advocated for more chemically comprehensive disclosure of data on polymer types and products, as well as companies’ mandatory reporting.

Work on the third group, unlike the other two, was first launched in Nairobi. The main task of the group was to discuss elements of the treaty not covered in past sessions. During the intersessional period, countries sent their proposals to the Secretariat, which were summarized in a synthesis report. In developing of this part, particularly in the preamble and final provisions of the future instrument, it has been repeatedly noted that the experience of existing international chemicals control instruments, including the Minamata, Stockholm, Basel, and Rotterdam conventions, should be taken into consideration. The main problematic issue of this group was the need to develop a clear conceptual framework and uniform use of terminology.

In the context of institutional mechanisms, all States agreed that the Conference of the Parties should be the umbrella body that would decide on the implementation of the future treaty. Some countries, however, noted that the powers of the umbrella body should be discussed in detail after the adoption of the treaty, rather than at negotiating committee sessions. Some proposals were also made for the necessary working bodies, including a scientific body, a compliance committee, a mechanism to collect data on best practices, an implementation committee, and a finance committee for developing States.

Besides, the third group considered issues requiring intersessional work following the meetings of all three contact groups, but the parties could not reach a common decision on the format and elements of such work.

The proposals of countries will be referred to in an updated zero draft, the text of which will be prepared by the Secretariat before the end of the year. It is expected that the revised draft will be used as the basis for discussions at the next session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Canada in April 2024.

The ICLRC will follow the development of the future plastic pollution instrument and participate in the discussions as an observer.