• Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Only 67 countries offer submissions on a proposed global treaty on ending plastic pollution. “Lows of the meeting were deeper than the highs”: CSE team

Even as the world gets ready to mark the World Environment Day (June 5) with the theme #BeatPlasticPollution, an important global meet on ending plastic pollution came to an end in Paris today with a whimper.

The second meeting of the UN’s intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-2) was being held in Paris (France) from May 29-June 2. The INC is a body of 193 UN member countries which will be negotiating a legally binding instrument, with a timeline to develop the final draft and open it for ratification by 2025.

The agenda for INC-2 was to discuss possible options and develop a zero draft for the international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution throughout the life cycle of plastic.

Speaking in New Delhi, CSE director general Sunita Narain drew attention to the problem of plastics in the environment: “Plastic is an all pervading essential substance in our lives. Its use has become so important for us because it is long-lasting and can be used for almost everything we do, from piping water to packing milk or chips. But it is this very characteristic of this substance that has now become a bane for our environment. Plastic waste has become the sign of the Anthropocene – you can say that humans live here because you will find plastic waste in the environment. Worse, massive quantities of plastic litter is now polluting oceans, and also entering the food chain through fish that we eat. It is not good news.”

While there is global acknowledgement of the scale of the plastic problem, collaborative action – as seen in the proceedings and outcome of the INC-2 – has been missing. Says Atin Biswas, programme director, solid waste management and circular economy, CSE: “The basis of discussions at INC-2 was an options paper released by the INC secretariat before the INC-2 meeting. This paper was prepared on the basis of written submissions received from member states on what should be considered for an ideal global plastic treaty. Only 67 member states put in their submissions. It should be noted that the lows of the meeting were clearly deeper than the highs”.

India is advocating a consensus-based approach for taking decisions in the INC. This approach will certainly ensure inclusivity, but it may make the process of decision-making slower.

India has also rejected phasing down polymer production, one of the suggestions presented in the options paper. In its intervention during the Meeting, India pointed out that plastic as a material was not a problem – the problem was plastic litter. Says Siddharth G Singh, programme manager, solid waste management and circular economy, CSE: “This indicates that India is focusing on downstream measures to tackle plastic pollution, though Indian legislation talks about mid-stream approaches like re-design and re-use.”

The INC-2 meet ended with the informal discussions reporting back to the committee. The meet was expected to arrive at a zero draft text, but “due to delays in the negotiation processes, especially on the ‘provisional rules of procedure’ with reference to Rule 37 on voting rights, and Rule 38(1) on the adoption of decisions, the zero draft could not be arrived at in this meeting,” says Singh, who, along with Biswas, represented CSE in the negotiations.

All member states, however, have unanimously agreed that the INC secretariat should work on a zero draft and present it to the member states. This will become the basis of discussions in INC-3, to be held in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2023. Says Biswas: “All eyes are, therefore, now on Nairobi for developing a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution.”

 

Source: CSE

Report- Pratyusha Mukherjee 

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