On December 2, 2022, the first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (hereinafter referred to as "INC-1 Conference") aimed at formulating a legally binding international instrument on plastic pollution (including plastic pollution in the marine environment) (hereinafter referred to as "international instrument") was successfully concluded in Punta del Este, Uruguay. Representatives heard and considered the draft report on the work of the first session and the draft decision on the draft provisional agenda for the second session. As an observer, the author participated in the plenary session of the first session of the Conference, as well as the stakeholder forum and dialogue. With the COVID-19 still emerging, it is not easy to gather more than 2300 representatives from more than 160 countries to participate online and offline. It is not difficult to see that plastic pollution has become a common crisis facing mankind.
In the past five days of negotiations, representatives of all countries and stakeholders have expressed their views on the scope, objectives, architecture, core obligations, control measures, voluntary approaches, national action plans, means of implementation (including capacity-building, technical assistance and funding), support for monitoring and evaluating the progress and effectiveness of implementation, as well as national reports, stakeholder participation and action, standard provisions of final clauses General presentations, regional breakout discussions and other informal consultations were conducted in terms of sequencing and suggested further work. The author notes that the negotiation committee has innovated its form, such as:
1. An informal group other than the contact group has been established, and the negotiating committee has given task instructions to the informal group, focusing on stakeholder participation, discussion on the form and procedure of future negotiations, and preparation of preliminary documents;
2. Initiated the form of stakeholder dialogue during the negotiation plenary meeting, allowing the participating national delegations to listen to the views, suggestions and supporting information of multi stakeholders, so as to facilitate the discussion on the content of the preparation of an international instrument.
The author believes that the first session did not reach consensus on many topics, but more from the perspective of the delegations
To highlight the core demands, in general:
1. Scope: It is recommended to cover the whole life cycle of plastics, from the polymerization of plastics to the final recycling cycle and harmless disposal, including plastics, plastic products, additives, micro plastics and nano plastics, as well as other existing and possible future chemicals related to plastics.
2. Purpose: Some countries and regions propose to focus on eliminating all plastic pollution in the environment (including land and sea); Some representatives proposed to give consideration to human health and public health; Some emphasize that existing garbage and potential unknown pollution sources in the future should be taken into account; Others suggested that economic sustainability should be taken into account and flexibility of purpose should be maintained.
3. Principles: The most mentioned are four principles, including full life cycle assessment, harmless and non-toxic circular economy, polluter pays and producer responsibility extension.
4. In terms of instrument structure: most countries propose to use the form of a specific convention or a hybrid mechanism, and propose to take into account the relationship with existing conventions, such as the Basel Convention, the Rotterdam Convention and the Stockholm Convention.
5. In terms of potential elements: the author has found some eye-catching views, such as: some countries proposed to limit and reduce the production of all primary plastics, which was also opposed by another part of the country, because the international instrument is to end the plastic pollution rather than the plastic itself. If you want to limit and eliminate it, you should focus on disposable plastic products. Many countries also emphasized that although plastic pollution is a common challenge faced by all countries, considering the historical accumulation of plastic pollution and the mobility of marine plastic pollution, it is necessary to distinguish the responsibilities of developed countries and developing countries, as well as plastic producers, consumers and small island countries. Many non-governmental organizations and interest groups have raised the issue of inclusiveness, demanding a fair and equitable transformation of international instruments, especially for those vulnerable to pollution or marginalization, including women, children, scavengers, and indigenous people. Some participants proposed to subdivide and sort plastics according to their categories and consider cross value chain analysis, suggesting that more private sector participation and suggestions should be included.
6. Stakeholder participation: Many delegations emphasized the importance of multi stakeholder action, and insisted that stakeholders should participate in the negotiation process in a diversified way, including submitting written materials during the intersessional period, organizing stakeholder forums and dialogues with the participation of national representatives, etc.
The author noted that the Chinese delegation actively made statements in each round of discussions. The Chinese delegation hopes that the international paper on plastic pollution
The negotiation of the book adheres to the problem orientation, focuses on plastic products that are easy to leak to the environment, takes classified management and control measures for different types of plastic products, and strengthens recycling and safe disposal. The delegation also believed that in the negotiation process of international instruments, full consideration must be given to the national conditions and capabilities of different countries, especially the needs of developing countries, and the principle of equity, common but differentiated responsibilities must be upheld. While solving the problem of plastic pollution in their own countries, developed countries should strengthen their support to developing countries in terms of technology, capital and capacity building.
It seems to me that there is a long way to go to formulate an international instrument with wide coverage and strong technical difficulties within two years. In the next four rounds of negotiations
The negotiating committee will first determine the content of the scope, objectives and structure of the three modules to lay the framework and direction for the international instrument. More time will be reserved for the discussion and consideration of options for potential elements. It is reported that the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee is scheduled to be held in France from May 22 to May 26, 2023.