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Progress made at INC-4 but more work needed to keep pace with urgency of plastic pollution crisis

OTTAWA, Canada (30 April 2024) - The latest talks on the global treaty to end plastic pollution yielded some success in terms of countries proposing and progressing on certain key measures to address the crisis but countries left undecided the treaty’s biggest fault line - whether the treaty will have the needed common global rules or enforce status quo through voluntary ones based on national plans.

The meeting saw further development of rules to prohibit problematic and avoidable plastic products, but left open whether the treaty will include measures to reduce production and consumption of plastics. 

Negotiations moved at too slow a pace for important decisions to be progressed at a speed that can match the magnitude of the plastic pollution that currently engulfs our planet - over 15 million tonnes of plastic have leaked into the ocean just since the start of the negotiations.

“Countries have made important progress in Canada with constructive discussions on what the treaty will actually do, but the big decisions still remain: will we get the strong treaty with common global rules that most of the world is calling for, or will we end up with a voluntary watered-down agreement led by least common denominator values? Negotiators need to recognise that plastic pollution is an accelerating global crisis that cannot be solved with fragmented national approaches. Governments must now employ all possible means to step up progress between the meetings on measures that will have the biggest impact on addressing plastic pollution across plastic’s full lifecycle - in particular, global bans on high-risk products and chemicals, global product design requirements and a robust financial package to secure a just transition,” said Eirik Lindebjerg, Global Plastics Policy Lead, WWF International.

Countries did agree to conduct formal intersessional work in the lead up to INC-5, and this will be pivotal in pushing through lists on harmful and avoidable plastic products and chemicals, product design for reuse and recyclability as well as in analysing the financial package needed for implementing the treaty.

With significant work still needed before negotiators head back into the final meeting - to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea this November - WWF calls on all governments to explore every effort to advance progress between sessions. Formal intersessional work, country-led technical meetings, ministerial conferences and informal consultations will all be necessary to ensure negotiators come to the final meeting in Busan prepared to negotiate and finalise the treaty.

WWF welcomes the ministerial conference to be hosted by Canada, Ecuador, Germany and Ghana, announced by Germany at Partnerships Day, a sideline event hosted by Canada and WWF.

The decision to conduct formal intersessional work was an outcome that many reached for at INC-3 but were ultimately denied. While this decision will offer countries the time and opportunity to make progress on several important measures being considered in the treaty, such as elimination of problematic and avoidable plastic products and chemicals,  the mandate does not include critical measures related to sustainable production and consumption such as the reduction of production of primary plastic polymers. Informal work should be convened on this topic in order to complement the work of INC. 

While major disagreements on the strength of measures remain, increased alignment was seen throughout the negotiations in key areas, including binding global bans and phase outs of high-risk products and chemicals, development of mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility schemes, common product design requirements and a financial package to ensure implementation. The mission is now to translate this majority alignment into clear texts that provide for how the treaty can be implemented. 

"This week showed that the majority of countries want a strong treaty with binding global rules on harmful and avoidable plastic and common product design requirements. With an unprecedented opportunity in front of them, now is the time for world leaders to show their political will and deliver a treaty strong enough to outpace the speed in which the global plastic pollution crisis is accelerating,” added Lindebjerg.
© Vincent Kneefel
plastic pollution

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