Summary of the 12th International Environmental Law Workshop on Zero-Waste Plasticity and Zero-Chemical Recycled Carbon – Part I: Brief Summary
“It’s clear the present process cannot overcome the coordinated opposition of those who block consensus and progress at every turn,” Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law, said in a statement.
Forbes said in the statement that fossil fuel producers are allowed to shape the negotiations.
An ExxonMobil spokesperson said in a statement in early November that the company is “launching real solutions to address plastic waste and improve recycling rates.” The company has previously said the problem of plastic waste can be solved without cutting how much plastic society uses.
The meeting included representatives from governments, industry, advocacy groups and academia. The Scientists’ Coalition for an Effective Plastic Treaty is pushing for an agreement that has legal binding targets to reduce the production and use of plastics in order to protect the planet. “We’re pushing really hard for prevention or reduction, all those things that are higher up the zero-waste hierarchy than just increasing recycling,” says Trisia Farrelly, an environmental anthropologist at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand, and a member of the scientists’ coalition.
“The results this week are no accident,” David Azoulay, program director for environmental health at the Center for International Environmental Law, said in a statement. Member States must confront and address industry influence in this process if they want to progress on plastic.
Lobbyists are also at the talks. More lobbyists from the fossil fuel and chemical industries registered for the next round of negotiations, which concluded in June, according to the Center for International Environmental Law.
The representatives from around the globe met last week. Most of them tried to find similarities among different perspectives, but the process was continually delayed by a small number of Member states that prioritized plastic and profits before the planet, according to a statement. The talks ended on Sunday.
Simon told NPR on Sunday that most countries support strong, robust terms for an agreement. But there are “a handful of really lower ambition countries calling for a looser voluntary agreement.”
You get one shot at a man getting words on a paper. The treaty “should be specific, it should be binding, it should be ambitious”, he adds. He’s hoping that scientists can get delegates to a strong agreement. “Time is of the essence.”
The model shows that we have to be ambitious, and uses machine learning and economic and population trends. “A low-ambition treaty would be worse than no treaty at all,” he adds, “because then we are pretending we are solving the problem.”
The process was kick-started in March 2022, when 175 nations voted to create a legally binding international agreement aimed at plastic pollution — a problem that has reached epic proportions since the 1950s. Humanity now manufactures more than 450 million tonnes of plastic per year, and about 22% of plastic waste is ‘mismanaged’: dumped or burnt in open areas rather than being placed in sealed landfill, incinerated or recycled. According to one estimate, the world is on track to accumulate roughly 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste in landfill and the natural environment by 20501.
The plastic has been found in the ocean, on the sea floor, and on rocks in river beds as a result of the litter. They are also documenting a large number of environmental and health effects from plastic chemicals and microparticles in the air, at sea and on land2. Tiny pieces of plastic have found their way into food, blood and breast milk, with as-yet unclear impacts.
The Zero Draft of the UNEP 2024 Roundtable: Where Are We Going? What Have We Don’t Know About Plastic Pollution?
The zero draft got longer rather than narrowing down the options during last week’s meeting, which was the third session of the INC and the halfway point towards the goal of finalizing the treaty in 2024. The next session will be in Ottawa in April.
But researchers told Nature that progress was disappointing. “We now only have about a year left in this process and are nowhere near where we need to be,” says Douglas McCauley, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has modelled plastic pollution.
There was a demonstration last week by scientists in support of delegates at the UNEP working on a global treaty to eliminate plastic pollution.