Third round of negotiations for a UN Treaty on Plastic Pollution

From 13 to 19 November 2023, the third round of negotiations for a treaty on plastic pollution was held in Nairobi, at the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).


Increasing levels of plastic pollution pose a grave threat to the environment, human health and marine life around the world. As such, it negatively affects our right to live in a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.


In February 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly, the governing body of the UNEP, adopted resolution 5/14 to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including the marine environment. Following this resolution, an intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) was established to elaborate the draft of a legally binding instrument by the end of 2024.


Since 2022, the INC has held three negotiation sessions to develop this treaty: INC-1 in Uruguay from 28 November to 2 December 2022; INC-2 in Paris from 29 May to 2 June 2023; and INC-3 in Nairobi from 13 to 19 November 2023.


After INC-2, a “zero draft” of a plastic pollution treaty was adopted on 4 September 2023. The Global Pact Coalition was invited to share its observations regarding this draft. The GPC requested that the preamble of the treaty make reference to the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Furthermore, it also suggests including a set of key environmental law principles, such as the precautionary and prevention principles, the prevention principle, the polluter-pays principle, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, the principle of non-regression, the Rio principles, and a reference to the waste hierarchy.


While the zero draft contained some ambitious provisions, it still contained placeholders on crucial issues such as the preamble of the treaty, definitions, principles, and its scope. 


This third negotiating session offered an opportunity to discuss the aforementioned zero-draft and make suggestions to revise it. While most delegations favored a strong treaty, very little progress was made, and major issues are still left pending. For example, there are still debates on whether the focus should be on diminishing plastic production, or on recycling and reusing (which are less ambitious in terms of environmental protection). 


At the end of INC-3, delegates mandated the Secretariat to elaborate a “revised zero-draft” by 31 December 2023. This new document would serve as the basis of discussions for the fourth round of negotiations, INC-4, which will be held in Ottawa from 21 to 30 April 2024. Moreover, delegates agreed on the date and venue of INC-5 which will be in Busan from 25 November to 1 December 2024.