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Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee Chair to prepare zero draft of international agreement on plastic pollution as Paris negotiations end

Paris, 3 June 2023 – The second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-2), concluded today in the French capital with a mandate for the INC Chair, with the support of the Secretariat, to prepare a zero draft of the agreement ahead of the next session, due to take place in Nairobi, Kenya, in November.

More than 1,700 participants in Paris - over 700 Member State delegates from 169 Member States and over 900 observers from NGOs – attended the session, hosted by France at the headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Paris. The second session follows INC-1, which was held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in November 2022.

Debate emerged between countries wanting to limit the production of more plastics and the petrochemical industry favoring recycling as the solution to plastic waste.

Many countries have suggested that the goal of the treaty should be circularity, which means keeping already-produced plastic products in circulation as long as possible.

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, said that "there is no time to lose" on the subject. "The aim must be to produce a text that everyone agrees on by the end of 2024, a year before the United Nations Conference on Oceans in Nice," he completed.

In a report published recently, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) released a blueprint for cutting plastic waste by 80% until 2040. The report described three main areas of action: reuse, recycling and reorientation of plastic packaging to alternative materials.

“I am encouraged by progress at INC-2 and the mandate to prepare a zero draft of the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which is hosting the talks,. “I look forward to INC-3 in Nairobi, and urge Member States to maintain this momentum. The world is calling for an agreement that is broad, innovative, inclusive and transparent, one that leans on science and learns from stakeholders, and one that ensures support for developing nations."

“Plastic has been the default option in design for too long. It is time to redesign products to use less plastic, particularly unnecessary and problematic plastics, to redesign product packaging and shipping to use less plastic, to redesign systems and products for reuse and recyclability and to redesign the broader system for justice,” she added. “The INC has the power to deliver this transformation, bringing major opportunities for everyone.”

On the first day of the session, Member States elected Georgia, Estonia, Sweden and the US to the Bureau. Following discussions on voting rights, they also agreed on an interpretive paragraph for the Draft Rules of Procedure that apply on a provisional basis to the work of the INC.

Officially closing the session, Chair of the INC, H.E. Mr. Gustavo Adolfo Meza-Cuadra Velasquez, thanked the Government of France and UNESCO for hosting the session, as well as the Member States, observers, co-facilitators and support staff of the discussions.

“Moving forward, I would like to thank you for your trust for the development of the zero draft, with the support of the Secretariat,” he said. “I will do the utmost to ensure that this document reflects faithfully our discussions, as well as the contributions and views of Member States. I take this crucial step to meet our tight deadline with great responsibility.”

In its decision, the INC requested the Secretariat to invite submissions from observers by 15 August and Members by 15 September on elements not discussed at INC-2, such as the principles and scope of the instrument, and any potential areas for intersessional work compiled by the cofacilitators of the two contact groups, to inform the work of INC-3.

About the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee

United Nations Environment Assembly resolution 5/14 requested the Executive Director of UNEP to convene an intergovernmental negotiating committee, to begin its work during the second half of 2022, with the ambition of completing its work by the end of 2024. The INC is tasked with developing an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, henceforth referred to as “the instrument”, which could include both binding and voluntary approaches, based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastic.

Sources: Reuters / INC; Photo: IISD