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Beginning of intergovernmental negotiations on the international treaty against plastic pollution

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“Today marks the triumph of planet Earth over single-use plastics. It is the largest multilateral environmental agreement since the Paris Agreement [sur le climat] ». It is an understatement to say that the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, was satisfied with the adoption, on 2 March, under the aegis of the United Nations, of a “historic resolution” aiming to “End Plastic Pollution” through the development of a legally binding international treaty by 2024. After the congratulations, the time for negotiations begins. They open Monday, November 28 in Punta del Este (Uruguay) with the first of five meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) scheduled until 2024. It is this body which is responsible for drafting the future treaty. “The INC mandate does not give any of the stakeholders a two-year break”warned Inger Andersen.

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The urgency is equal to the threat. Global plastic production doubled between 2000 and 2020 to reach 460 million tonnes per year and should approach one billion by 2050 if nothing is done. By this time, greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, use and disposal of plastics should represent 15% of global emissions. And at the current rate, plastic pollution of the oceans (11 million tonnes per year) will have quadrupled by 2050.

This first round of negotiations should make it possible to better identify the positions and ambitions of the various “stakeholders”. The first potential sticking point is the scope of the treaty. The mandate entrusted to the CIN certainly invites States to take into account the entire life cycle of plastic (from the extraction of fossil fuels to recycling), but certain countries, such as Japan or Saudi Arabia (a major producer of oil), would like to deal only with the management of plastic waste and the issue of marine pollution

Less ambitious approach of the United States

A coalition co-chaired by Norway and Rwanda defends a “high ambition” text. It currently brings together around fifty states, including Germany, the United Kingdom and France, which has applied to host the second round of negotiations in the spring of 2023. The European Union has also just joined it. The coalition aims to end plastic pollution by 2040 by setting three main objectives: to limit the consumption and production of plastic to levels “sustainable”develop a circular economy that protects the environment and human health, ensure management and recycling “ecologically sound” plastic waste. Neither China, a major producer and consumer of plastic, nor the United States are part of this coalition.

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