Single-use plastics. In June, the United Nations (UN) Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) meeting was held to discuss the work plan to advance the binding international treaty on plastics approved in March. The draft voted at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) aims to address the full life cycle of plastics, from fossil fuel extraction to production and end-of-life. Negotiations for the final elaboration of the treaty will continue during the first meeting of the UN Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) in Uruguay at the end of November 2022, with a view to the final agreement finally being presented in 2024.
On the occasion, David Azoulay, Director of the Environmental Health Program of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), indicated that at the meeting the States present committed to recognize the perspectives offered by civil society organizations, recyclers and indigenous peoples in the international and local negotiation phases to reduce the use of plastics. They also defined the priorities to be addressed in the upcoming discussions on the subject, including, on the one hand, the drafting of a treaty that addresses the plastic crisis in a comprehensive manner, that is, that contemplates its entire cycle of use and, on the other hand, the design of national plans for the parties to address the problem of excessive use of plastics at the local level based on the specific approaches and realities of each country. It was also agreed to outline and define financial mechanisms for the implementation of the treaty in question.
Both the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) expressed their support for the draft approved in March. On the one hand, the FAO stated that there is currently no legal framework that addresses all aspects of the use of plastics in the agricultural sectors, such as crops, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture, among others. On the other hand, the ILO proposes that adopting a “human-centered approach” to combat plastic pollution will lead to the creation of more jobs and can move towards the adoption of a circular economy. In this regard, it urges both governments and organizations to use the conclusions on the promotion of sustainable enterprises, adopted by the International Labor Conference in 2007, which propose the creation of enabling environments for the development of sustainable enterprises, responsible practices that should be adopted by such enterprises, such as environmentally friendly technologies, among others.
At the meeting of the United Nations (UN) Open Ended Working Group (OEWG), several government representatives from around the world discussed the first lines of a work plan to advance the final draft of the document approved by the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5), which seeks to create a binding international instrument on plastics. Thus, negotiations for the elaboration of the treaty will continue during the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Uruguay at the end of November 2022. Taking into account the timeframes required for parties to draft national plans for treaty implementation and to set up funding mechanisms for them, the OEWG assumes that negotiations would culminate in a meeting of plenipotentiaries in early 2024.
Opportunity for advocacy
The instances of discussion within the different UN working groups, such as the future meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) in November 2022, provide an opportunity for multi-stakeholder participation in the debate, including the private sector, public sector and civil society organizations.