Blog: Brief from the Second Session of Negotiations on a Treaty to End Plastic Pollution

By: Emily Cowan – Researcher at SINTEF Ocean 

"When we listen to nature and we act, we can make progress" – Victor Hugo

Between May 29th – June 2nd, 2023 – in the heart of Paris, at the premises of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The second round of negotiations commenced on the multilateral negotiations towards a new global treaty to end plastic pollution which resumed after its first session in Uruguay in November 2022.

The treaty negotiations are expected to conclude by December 2024 after 3 subsequent sessions with a legally binding treaty. During this INC-2 one-week meeting, the intention was to move forward with laying the groundwork for a zero draft text to be made – this was made crystal clear by French President Emmanuel Macron, who gave a pre-recorded talk as the plenary session started.

On the scene in Paris were two members of the SOS-ZEROPOL2023 project team, Emily Cowan & Rachel Tiller. Part of the work the SINTEF team is conducting during these negotiations is building a database to allow future academics, politicians and members of civil society to analyse how global environmental treaties are formed. In Paris, we built upon one of our global environmental negotiation databases SINTEF Ocean has, to understand how a global environmental treaty is formed via input from delegates, civil society, indigenous peoples, science, youth, industry and IGOs. In doing so we systematically document statements in the negotiation room while accounting for gender balance, speaking time of delegates and ‘hot topics’ that appear and steer the negotiations. We are also able to search the document for keywords – where we found at INC2 Tyre Wear Particles were mentioned multiple times by numerous delegates on finding ways to stop unintentionally added plastics or secondary plastics from textiles, tyres and how they should be addressed by measures within the future treaty.

Throughout the week there were numerous converging views as well as gaps in the agreement that took place during both two parallel negotiating sessions called contact groups. Both groups discussed potential options for elements of the future treaty. The first contact group discussed the 12 core obligations – where there was broad consensus to include obligations based on science, risk assessments, and human rights-based approaches. Phaseouts or bans on unintentionally added microplastics as well as not overstepping and instead building upon previous multilateral environmental treaties such as the Basel and Stockholm Conventions were also discussed with a wide agreement.

In terms of divergence – the views were again clear and nearly split down the middle between going for a treaty with more global core legally binding measures or simply nationally determined and/or voluntary action plans. This will most definitely be a point of contention when the zero draft text hopefully begins negotiations at INC3.

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