Talks are progressing on a treaty to end plastic pollution

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) — Countries made progress on a treaty to end plastic pollution as a fourth round of talks ended early Tuesday in Canada.

For the first time in this process, negotiators discussed the text of what was supposed to become a global treaty. Delegates and observers in Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution He described it as a welcome sign that the conversation was shifting from ideas to the language of the treaty at this, the fourth of the five scheduled meetings.

Even more controversial is the idea of ​​limiting the amount of plastic manufactured. This remains in the text despite strong objections from countries, plastic producing companies, and oil and gas exporters. Most plastic is made from fossil fuels and chemicals.

like Ottawa session After the talks ended, the committee agreed to continue work on the treaty before its final meeting later this year in South Korea.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Stephen Guilbault sit at a news conference on April 23, 2024 in Ottawa, Ontario. (Adrian Wild/The Canadian Press via AP)

Preparations for that session will focus on how to finance implementation of the treaty, assess chemicals of concern in plastic products, and consider product design. The representative of Rwanda said they had ignored the elephant in the room by not addressing plastic production.

“Ultimately, it is not just about the text, it is not just about the process,” said Jyoti Mathur Philip, executive secretary of the committee. “It is simply about creating a better future for generations and for our loved ones. This is multilateralism at its best, and we can and will succeed.”

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Members want a treaty focused on plastic recycling and reuse, sometimes referred to as “mainstreaming,” said Stuart Harris, industry spokesman for the International Council of Chemical Societies.

They do not want to put a cap on plastic production, and believe that chemicals should not be regulated by this agreement. Harris said the association is happy to see governments come together and agree to complete additional work, especially regarding financing and design of plastic products.

Dozens of scientists from the Alliance of Scientists for an Effective Plastics Treaty came to the meeting to present scientific evidence on plastic pollution to negotiators, in part, they said, to dispel misinformation.

“I heard yesterday that there is no data on microplastics, which is verifiably false: there have been 21,000 publications on micro and nanoplastics,” said Bethany Carne Almroth, a professor of environmental toxicology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden who co-leads the coalition. “It's like Whac-A-Mole.”

She said scientists were harassed and intimidated by lobbyists, and told the United Nations that one lobbyist shouted at her at a meeting.

Ecuador's chief negotiator Walter Schuldt said that despite their differences, the countries represented share a common vision for moving forward in the treaty process.

“Because ultimately we are talking about the future survival of life, not just human life but all kinds of life on this planet,” he said in an interview.

He said that he was proud to participate and contribute “with his grain of sand” to the global action to address the environmental crisis.

Treaty talks began in Uruguay in December 2022 After Rwanda and Peru proposed the resolution that launched the process in March 2022. Progress has been slow during Paris talks in May 2023 And in Nairobi in November While countries discussed the rules of this process.

When thousands of negotiators and observers arrived in Ottawa, Luis Villas Valdivieso, chair of the commission from Ecuador, reminded them of their goal of achieving a future free of plastic pollution. He asked them to be ambitious.

Delegates discussed not only the scope of the treaty, but also chemicals of concern, problematic and avoidable plastics, product design, financing and implementation.

FILE - Environment and Climate Change Minister Stephen Guilbault is seen as chair of the intergovernmental negotiating committee Ambassador Luis Villas Valdivieso speaks during a news conference, April 23, 2024, in Ottawa, Ontario.  (Adrian Wilde/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Environment and Climate Change Minister Stephen Guilbault seen as chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee Ambassador Luis Villas Valdivieso speaks during a news conference, April 23, 2024, in Ottawa, Ontario. (Adrian Wild/The Canadian Press via AP)

Delegates also simplified the unwieldy set of options that emerged from the last meeting.

“We have taken a big step forward after two years of much discussion. We now have a text to negotiate,” said Björn Biller, international coordinator of the International Pollution Elimination Network. “Unfortunately, more political will is needed to address the rising plastic production that “It got out of control.”

Many traveled to Ottawa from communities affected by the plastics industry and pollution. Residents of Louisiana and Texas who live near petrochemical plants and refineries distributed postcards addressed to the US State Department saying: “I wish you were here.”

They traveled together as a group from the Break Free From Plastic movement, asking negotiators to visit their states to experience air and water pollution firsthand.

“This is still the best option we have to see change in our communities. They have been taken over by corporations. I can't go to parish government,” said Joe Banner, of St. John the Baptist Parish in Louisiana. “I feel like this is the only chance I have.” I own it and hope to help my community recover and heal from this.”

Members of the Indigenous Caucus held a news conference on Saturday to say microplastics are contaminating their food supply and that the pollution threatens their communities and ways of life that are guaranteed to them forever. They felt that their voices were not heard.

“We have bigger stakes. These are our ancestral lands that have become polluted with plastic,” Jorisa Lee from New Zealand said after the event. “We are rights holders, not stakeholders. We should have more space to speak and make decisions than the people who are causing the problem.

In the Bay of Plenty, a seafood hotspot on New Zealand's north coast, sediments and shellfish are filled with tiny plastic particles. Lee added that they regard nature's “resources” as treasures.

“Indigenous ways can lead the way,” Lee said. “What we are doing now is clearly not working.”

Vi Waghiyi traveled from Alaska to represent indigenous peoples of the Arctic. It reminds decision-makers that this treaty must protect people from plastic pollution for future generations.

“We came here to be the conscience, to make sure they make the right decision for all people,” she said.


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