Delegates at the just ended fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) in Ottawa have made significant progress in refining the draft text of the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.

The session, spanning seven days, saw the largest and most inclusive participation in the Committee's history, with nearly fifty percent increase in observer attendance. Over 2,500 delegates from 170 member states and more than 480 observer organizations, including NGOs, intergovernmental bodies, and UN entities, took part in the discussions.

Key topics deliberated during INC-4 included emissions and releases, production methods, product design, waste management, problematic plastics, financing, and ensuring a just transition.

Members also agreed on intersessional work, including expert meetings, to further consensus on critical issues. Furthermore, plans were made to establish an Open-ended Legal Drafting Group at INC-5, tasked with advising on the legal aspects of the revised text.

During the seven-day deliberations, Chair of the INC, Luis Vayas, highlighted that delegates had made significant progress in refining and advancing the revised draft text of the instrument. This progress included streamlining the text and engaging in textual negotiations on various elements.

“At the same time, we also leave with a much clearer picture of the work that remains to be done, if we are to deliver on the promise that Members have made through UNEA Resolution 5/14,” he said.

Mr. Luis emphasized that all delegates share a strong commitment to delivering an international legally binding instrument to address plastic pollution.

"It is this spirit of multilateralism which has guided our discussions here in Ottawa,” he added, saying "the delegates have found some common ground, and are walking this path together until the end. I firmly believe that we can carry this same spirit forth to Busan to deliver on our mandate.”

Executive Secretary of the INC Secretariat, Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, mentioned the ambitious timeline of 18 months and four sessions to reach this point, stating that they are now firmly on the road to Busan. She emphasized that compromise and commitment remain strong at this advanced stage of the negotiations.

“Members should arrive in Busan ready to deliver on their mandate and agree to a final text of the instrument. This is more than a process – it is the fulfilment of your commitment to saving future generations from the global scourge of plastic pollution,” he added.

"We came to Ottawa to advance the text and with the hope that Members would agree on the intersessional work required to make even greater progress ahead of INC-5," said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Inger stated that the delegates depart from Ottawa having accomplished both objectives and with a clear path to reaching an ambitious deal in Busan. However, she emphasized that the work is far from finished, as the plastic pollution crisis persists worldwide, and there are only a few months remaining before the end-of-year deadline agreed upon in 2022.

She urged members to show continued commitment and flexibility to achieve maximum ambition.

The fourth session follows INC-1 in Punta del Este in November 2022, INC-2 in Paris in May/June 2023, and INC-3 in Nairobi in November 2023. INC-5, which is expected to conclude the INC process, is scheduled for November 2024 in Busan, Republic of Korea.

 Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, affirmed Canada's commitment to reaching a final agreement at INC-5 in the Republic of Korea before year end. He emphasized that the focus has shifted from whether they can achieve this goal to how they can do so.

“Together we can land one of the most significant environmental decisions since the Paris Agreement and the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. We are doing everything we can to raise the international profile of the plastic pollution crisis so that the agreement gets the global attention it deserves to cross the finish line.”

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