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Navigating the second round of global treaty talks on plastic pollution: a complete overview

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By Julie Andersen

· 3 min read

INC2 introduction

INC2 had over 1600 attendees from more than 170 countries who converged at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris to hash out details of a potential treaty aimed at curtailing plastic pollution. Approximately 50% of attendees were country delegates representing 168 countries and the other 50% of attendees represented stakeholders from civil society, international governmental organizations, scientists, and industry with varying interests.

Despite the diplomatic obstacles to incorporating challenges and positions from all countries and stakeholders, the week-long session of INC2 reached a promising conclusion. The completion of INC2 marks the progress of 40% on the path to the creation of a treaty. Therefore, it’s important to remember there are more challenges to overcome.

Week of INC2 recap

The inaugural day was marked by inspiring speeches from UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen, France’s President Emmanuel Macron, and the INC Secretariat Executive Secretary Jyoti Mathur-Filipp. The primary objective was to establish the mandate for a zero-draft text for the treaty. Despite initial challenges from some countries on procedures, country delegates negotiated in the early morning hours to overcome a deadlock by day three (3).

At the start of day 3, country delegates began sharing their perspectives on plastic pollution and potential solutions. Two contact groups were established to work on all plastic pollution-related elements, using a document prepared by the secretariat. The reports from these contact groups were crucial for the secretariat to start drafting the treaty by INC3 in November.

Each day for 1 hour, there were multiple side events held. The side events were organized by the UN and intended to expand delegates’ knowledge and showcase global solutions. These events highlighted the multifaceted nature of plastic pollution and the necessity for holistic solutions, rather than focusing solely on downstream waste management interventions.

The side events offered an incredible amount of information and the importance of collaboration as a way forward. Unfortunately, due to limited time, space and resources to record, access to all information provided was challenging.

This highlighted the critical need for a system of information and engagement available not only to country delegates but to all stakeholders.

Over days 3 and 4, delegates worked painstakingly to review the options paper, laying bare their visions and interests. Certain nations, like Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and China, favored national and voluntary action plans, while others were more ambitious.

The concluding session on Friday was marked by intense deliberation, with the secretariat finally receiving its mandate. The second INC ended on a high note, with the secretariat empowered to begin drafting the treaty. Subsequent INC meetings were scheduled for Nairobi, Kenya, Ottawa, Canada, and South Korea.

Next steps

Regrettably, intercessional work was not decided upon, which could have advanced the process between INC2 and INC3. While numerous pollution types and solutions were discussed, there is still a lack of consolidated definitions for key concepts like “problematic or unnecessary plastics,” “sustainable plastic production and consumption,” and “circular economy.”

This article is also published by Plastic Oceans. illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Julie Andersen is CEO & Co-Founder of Plastic Oceans International. Julie's career has focused on communicating new means to improve and safeguard human health and the environment from the negative effects of industrial development. She has worked in public health and nonprofit management internationally for the past 20 years, including the US, Japan, Hong Kong and Thailand.

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