Canadian Plastics

Ottawa plastic treaty talks end amid disagreements

Canadian Plastics   

Canadian Plastics

Attendees were divided over the idea of limiting how much plastic is manufactured.

The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4), held in Ottawa from April 23 to April 29 and hosted by Canada’s federal government, has ended amid disagreements about whether to put global limits on plastic production, and with the committee agreeing to keep working on the treaty before its final meeting later this year in South Korea.

For the first time in the years-long process, negotiators discussed the text of what is supposed to become a global treaty, with the most contentious point being on limiting how much plastic is manufactured. That remains in the text over the strong objections of plastic-producing countries and companies and oil and gas exporters like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China.

“In the end, this is not just about the text, it’s not just about the process,” said Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, executive secretary of the committee. “It is quite simply about providing a better future for generations and for our loved ones.”

Stewart Harris, an industry spokesperson with the International Council of Chemical Associations, said the members want a treaty that focuses on recycling plastic and reuse instead of a cap on plastic production, and think chemicals should not be regulated through this agreement. Harris said the association was pleased to see governments coming together and agreeing to complete additional work, especially on financing and plastic product design.

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An op-ed piece written by Plastics Industry Association president and CEO Matt Seaholm stressed the industry’s commitment to end plastic waste and work towards a collaborative solution to keep plastic in the circular economy, but cautioned also against limiting plastic production. “These negotiations will be a missed opportunity if we spend the week talking about how to stop the production of plastic, which, unfortunately, has been a focal point at past meetings,” Seaholm wrote. “At this juncture, the biggest obstacle to progress is the unwillingness to compromise. Our industry is investing billions in the acceleration of circularity to combat plastic pollution, consistency in product designs and performance, and improvements in all workable forms of recycling. We actively seek compromise through these negotiations because we want to see ambitious and attainable environmental goals and are willing to sit at the table with partners from all sides to get it done.”

The INC treaty talks began in Uruguay in December 2022 after Rwanda and Peru proposed the resolution that launched the process in March 2022. Further talks were held in Paris in May 2023 and in Nairobi in November 2023. These  three INC sessions have resulted in a 69-page draft. INC negotiators are hoping to refine that text down to a list of core issues to be approved in a finished global treaty at the final upcoming session scheduled to take place in Busan, Republic of Korea, from Nov. 25 to Dec. 1.

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