Hopes for new global deal on plastic pollution to curb production fade

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With no further negotiations on plastic production limits scheduled before final negotiations in November, the treaty could instead focus on recycling.

Government negotiators sidestepped the issue during United Nations talks in the Canadian capital Ottawa earlier this week, dampening hopes for a new international agreement to limit burgeoning plastic production around the world. It’s here.

In the fourth and penultimate round of talks, negotiators did not agree to continue formal talks on how to reduce plastic production before a final meeting scheduled for November in Busan, South Korea, and restrictions remain in place. It is now less likely that it will be included in the agreement. Agreement.

Peruvian negotiators said Peru was “disappointed,” but the nonprofit International Environmental Law Center said Said Governments were sacrificing their “ambition for compromise.”

“The path to success in Busan appears to be becoming increasingly perilous,” said Christina Dixon, marine campaign leader at the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Big Oil’s Plan B

Some governments, led by the self-styled “Takano Union”, are pushing for measures to reduce plastic production, which is expected to reduce plastic production. Almost double in G20 countries By mid-century, major oil and gas producing countries such as the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran preferred to focus on recycling rather than reducing production.

The members of the self-proclaimed “Takano Rengo” are light blue (Photo credit: credit)

Plastics are made from oil and gas and their production accounts for 3% Greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuel companies are betting they can compensate by selling more of their products to plastics makers as demand for oil and gas for energy falls.

The talks in Ottawa were marred by complaints from scientists and campaigners that representatives of the plastics industry were harassing and intimidating them, and that Canada’s right-wing lobby group was secretly funding the plastics industry. Promotional advertisements were placed around the venue.

Use of “unsustainable” plastics

The governments of Rwanda and Peru are leading the push for a strong global agreement to curb plastic pollution, securing international approval for treaty consultations at the 2022 UN Environment Assembly. There is.

Last month in Ottawa, they asked the government Support formal negotiations on how to reduce the production and use of plastics, with the support of the 65 member states of the High Ambition Coalition.

Recognizing that “this is an issue characterized by differences of opinion,” Rwandan negotiators assured the delegation that “at least the desire to develop means based on science and fit for purpose is The situation has come to an end, and for that to happen, the issues we must address are as follows. Ask yourself: What is a sustainable level of production and consumption? ”

“Science tells us that current and projected levels of plastic consumption and production are unsustainable and far exceed the capacity of waste management and recycling. Moreover, these production levels will help eradicate plastic pollution and It also contradicts the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C,” she added.

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But governments such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and India are opposed to focusing on curbing production. Ecuador’s negotiating chair, Ambassador Luis Bayas Valdivieso, did not include production on the list of topics to be further formally discussed before final negotiations in South Korea.

Instead, he proposed an expert group on how to fund efforts to tackle plastic pollution and standards for identifying types of plastic products that are of “concern.” Governments accepted this and the talks concluded at 3 a.m. on Tuesday.

compromise is welcomed

Peru expressed disappointment at the decision not to focus on production, but Russian negotiators welcomed it, saying issues such as plastic design and recycling were “foundational for future agreements” and that negotiations would focus on these. He said that he should guess.

India’s representative said negotiations should be conducted “in a pragmatic manner and based on consensus”, adding that “plastics have played an important role in the development of societies”.

Saudi negotiators praised the speaker for “considering an agenda that brings convergence,” while many countries, including China, the United States and the European Union, said Ottawa’s outcome was a good compromise.

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Late in the evening of the final day of negotiations, the EU proposed holding another plenary session before Busan, but this was blocked by Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

David Azoulay, an observer at the International Environmental Law Center, accused developed countries that claim to be leaders on plastics to abandon the fight “as soon as the biggest polluters sideline them.”

In response to the lack of progress in curbing production, a group of countries led by the Pacific island nation of Micronesia issued a statement pledging to continue discussing the issue informally and keep it on the agenda. 32 countries signed “Bridge to Busan” conceptMore countries are expected to join in the future, including , Nigeria, France, and Australia.

Micronesian negotiator Dennis Clare told Climate Home that the signatories “recognize that we cannot meet our climate goals and the goal of eliminating plastic pollution unless we limit plastic production to sustainable levels. I’m doing it,” he said.

Delay, intimidation, harassment

There have been noticeable delays in the four rounds of talks held since 2022. some observers say It’s a deliberate tactic by countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia.

At the second meeting held in Paris last May, negotiators 2 days to discuss voting rulesa problem that many thought had already been solved.

And a third round in Nairobi in November failed to reach an agreement on the intersession work leading up to Ottawa. opposition from Russia and Saudi Arabia.

In Ottawa, the conference was marred by claims of intimidation and harassment from some campaigners and scientists. 196 lobbyistsHole is home to plastics and fossil fuel industries.

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Bethany Kearney Almroth, professor of ecotoxicology at the University of Gothenburg and co-chair of the Union of Scientists for an Effective Plastics Treaty, has written a formal complaint to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which is hosting the consultations.

She said she was subjected to “verbal harassment, yelling and baseless accusations” by a male representative of a plastics company. A male representative interrupted her to criticize an aspect of scientific research on plastics that she falsely implicated.

In a separate complaint to UNEP, Almuros said representatives of the plastics industry eavesdropped on scientists’ conversations, aggressively surrounded them, criticized their research, and “harassed and abused several of our young scientists.” ” he said.

Marcos Orellana, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Toxic Substances and Human Rights, said: said in X “We are deeply concerned to hear about the intimidation and harassment of scientists by industry,” he said, adding that “misbehavior by industry should never be tolerated.”

plastic promotion advertising

Almuros told Climate Home that participants were also faced with pro-plastic ads at the Ottawa Airport, on buses and in taxis. “The entire city of Ottawa is blanketed in propaganda and pro-plastic, anti-UN campaigns,” she said.

Photos of these ads seen by Climate Home show that some do not reveal who paid for the ads, and others are sponsored by a right-wing lobby group called the Canadian Confederation of Concerned Manufacturers (CCMBC). There are some things.

I am here #INC4 Report in Ottawa #PlasticConvention. Although the conference itself is plastic-free (food sold at the venue is wrapped in paper), these advertisements are posted in the hotel next door where the event is being held. pic.twitter.com/Bu8b6jawqG

— Lisa Song is @lisalsong.bsky.social (@lisalsong) April 24, 2024

CCMBC president and political activist Katherine Swift drove a van with pro-plastic ads around the conference center.in interview Next to a van carrying Rebel News, she argued that plastic is “almost infinitely recyclable” and that recycling is the solution to plastic pollution. Passersby said in an online clip from Swift and Rebel News that the ad was “kind of weird” and that “plastic is destroying the planet.”

CCMBC does not systematically declare its donors.But the video from there 2023 Gala Dinner Sponsors revealed include oil and gas companies such as NuVista and TC Energy, as well as plastics company Husky, whose CEO John Galt appeared on CCMBC. Youtube channel.

“This is a lot of money. This is a high-stakes gamble,” Almuros said. “Plastic is a fossil fuel and the petrochemical industry’s Plan B. As we move away from fossil fuels as an energy source, they are betting on plastic and we are a threat to them.”

(Reporting by Joe Lo; Editing by Megan Loring)

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