The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is encouraging nations committed to a meaningful treaty on plastic pollution to take the initiative and drive information-gathering and sharing efforts over the next five months. This push comes in anticipation of the fourth round of negotiations scheduled for April 2024.

Despite a majority of nations being ready for a robust treaty, countries with significant petrochemical interests have impeded progress, preventing a final decision on the approach leading into the fourth round of UN talks. As a result, formal work is now postponed until the next round, delaying discussions on crucial measures to address the plastic pollution crisis.

With over 30,000 metric tonnes of plastic leaking into oceans, WWF calls on high-ambition countries to be bold and proactive in developing an effective treaty, even in the face of opposition from a minority of oil-producing states.

With the next round of negotiations set to take place in Ottawa, Canada, in just five months, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) emphasizes the need for forward-thinking countries to utilize this time effectively. The focus should be on the development of a set of legally binding rules, a demand echoed by the majority of governments and numerous leading businesses.

Erin Simon, Vice President and Head of Plastic Waste & Business at WWF-US, underscores that during the recent UN country representatives' meeting, the majority expressed positive intentions and worked towards finding common ground on a treaty to end plastic pollution. However, progress was consistently hindered by a small number of member states prioritizing plastic and profit over environmental concerns.

“The job is clearly not done, and negotiators leave Nairobi without a plan in place to get to work before INC-4,” Erin said adding that, with just over a year to deliver on the promise of a future free from plastic pollution, countries must stand strong and bring collective action to reject the tactics to block the treaty process.

“It’s time to muster the political will to course correct and solve this crisis before it’s too late.”

While a small number of countries continue to obstruct progress, a substantial majority of nations are reportedly in favor of advancing a comprehensive and robust treaty to address plastic pollution. Over 100 countries advocate for global bans and phase-outs of the most harmful plastics, and an even larger group of 140 countries supports the establishment of binding global rules, rejecting a treaty based solely on voluntary actions favored by some nations.

Eirik Lindebjerg, Global Plastics Policy Lead at WWF International, emphasizes that the overwhelming consensus among countries reflects a shared understanding of the urgency in addressing the plastic pollution crisis. The majority is poised to propel the world toward ending plastic pollution.

“In the face of ongoing challenges, it is critical that these countries continue to demonstrate their determination to fight for strong and legally binding measures that can enable the historic shift needed to undo what decades of indifference and ignorance have brought upon us,” he said.

During the recent talks in Kenya, negotiators made strides by working on a draft treaty text for the first time, presenting constructive options to strengthen proposed global rules throughout the entire plastic lifecycle. This encompasses processes from the extraction of oil and gas for plastic production to design considerations for reuse and repair, and safe disposal.

With no formal plan for the next six months, WWF is calling on countries to independently advance information gathering and sharing to prevent stagnation in the process over the next five months.

Throughout the week, negotiators, particularly those from low- and middle-income regions like Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands, demonstrated strong leadership by proposing rules to address plastic pollution. These regions emphasized the need to regulate the uncontrolled production and design of plastic materials and products, which currently overwhelms their management capacities.

A recent WWF report warned that the true cost of plastic on the environment, health, and economies could be up to 10 times higher for low-income countries, despite their per-capita plastic consumption being almost three times less than that of high-income countries.

Alice Ruhweza, Senior Director for Policy and Engagement at WWF International, emphasizes that proposals for voluntary national measures and a sole focus on waste management will only exacerbate the burden for countries currently hardest hit by the plastic pollution crisis.

“A global treaty with binding rules for elimination and safe circulation of plastics, along with robust financial support, is our best hope for the level playing field which is desperately needed if we are to tackle the challenges felt by people and the environment in the Global South,” he said.

With only two negotiating sessions left to finalize a global plastics treaty before the end of 2024, WWF is urging countries to maximize the time leading up to the Ottawa talks. The organization calls on nations to mobilize political support and prepare the necessary technical groundwork to ensure the Ottawa meeting becomes a pivotal moment in the negotiations.

The talks in Nairobi have yielded concrete proposals and identified areas of disagreement. WWF emphasizes that, in Ottawa, countries must transition from discussions to actual negotiations, rallying around provisions that garner majority support. The urgency of the situation underscores the need for decisive action to address the global plastic pollution crisis.

“The negotiators must be guided, not by what the least ambitious countries are prepared to accept, but by the urgency of the plastic pollution crisis happening outside the conference rooms. The meeting in Ottawa can be this turning point,” added Eirik Lindebjerg, Global Plastics Policy Lead, WWF International.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.

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