Punta del Este, Uruguay, 28 November – 2 December 2022
Following the mandate agreed by the adoption of the historic UNEA resolution 5/14 in March 2022, the first of the five planned meetings of the International Negotiating Committee (also known as INC-1) took place in Punta del Este, Uruguay from 28 November to 2 December 2022. More than 2.300 delegates from 160 countries and representatives from the private sector and the civil society participated at the meeting. The ultimate task of the INC is to develop an internationally binding instrument to combat plastic pollution by 2024, based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full lifecycle of plastics.
To begin with, the initial discussions focused on organizational and procedural matters, especially on the election of the Bureau and the adoption of the Rules of Procedure. Given that the delegates were not able to reach an agreement, the draft Rules of Procedure applied provisionally with the exception of Rule 37 which remains open for further consultations at INC 2.
During the meeting the delegates addressed the scope and objectives of the agreement, the structure, potential elements, means of implementation and modalities for stakeholder participation.
INC participants endeavored to forge common ground on the scope of the future instrument. The vast majority of countries favored a holistic approach that encompasses the full “life-cycle” of plastics from product design to waste. Yet the definition of “life-cycle” has not been agreed. Opinions also diverged on when the life-cycle starts and ends. In their discussions on the objectives, the delegates supported that the future instrument should “protect the environment and human health from plastic pollution, and ultimately end plastic pollution.” It was further highlighted that circular economy approaches and environmental sound waste management should be simultaneously pursued though the treaty.
Moreover, the structure of the future instrument turned out to be a bone of contention during the negotiations. On the one hand, the formulation of a specific treaty containing global binding provisions was broadly argued by the delegates. On the other hand, there were delegates who opposed the top -down approach and opted for a framework convention underpinned by a bottom -up approach driven by national action plans (NAPs).
Concerning the core obligations, many countries argued that these should be conceptualized taking into account each stage of the entire lifecycle of the plastics. Additionally, the delegates advocated specific globally binding obligations including those addressing addressing, inter alia: harmful chemical additives and substances, recycling and waste management, design standards; reducing production of problematic, single-use, and unnecessary plastics, and disclosure of hazardous chemicals in polymers. In this context, delegates emphasized that guiding principles and approaches such as the extended producer responsibility, inclusiveness, common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and transparency should be enshrined in the future instrument.
Besides, the INC participants held a discussion on the means for implementation. In this realm, the call for the establishment of a dedicated multilateral fund was strongly proposed by many developing countries. In addition, the delegates highlighted that the meaningful participation of stakeholders including businesses is critical for both the development of the future treatment and its effective implementation.
At its conclusion, the Committee requested the INC Secretariat to prepare a document, ahead of INC-2, which would outline options for elements of the instrument including both legally binding and voluntary measures.
Lastly, it was agreed that the INC-2 will be convened in Paris from 22 to 26 May 2023.
Sources: IISD, UNEP
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About the author
MEPIELAN Centre is an international research, training and educational centre established by Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos at the Panteion University of Athens in 2008.
Before its establishment as a University Centre, MEPIELAN operated as a successful international research, training and informational programme (2002-2007) under the scientific direction of Professor Evangelos Raftopoulos and the aegis of the Panteion University of Athens, supported by the Mediterranean Action Plan/UNEP and the Greek Ministry of the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works.
MEPIELAN Centre is an accredited UNEP/MAP PARTNER (since 2013), a Member of the Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development (MCSD) (since 2016), and a Member of the Steering Committee of the MCSD (since 2019).
On 22 May 2022, MEPIELAN Centre proceeded to the development of MEPIELAN as a Non- Profit Civil Organization (INGO) for the more effective and efficient advancement of its Goals and Missions and furtherance of its activities. MEPIELAN Centre as a Non- Profit Civil Organization (INGO) is registered in Greek Law (Hellenic Business Registry, Reg. No. 16477300100) in accordance with Laws 4072/2012 & 4919/2022 as applicable