The first international treaty aimed at tackling plastic pollution around the world may be in the offing as country representatives gather in Nairobi, Kenya. It will be the third round of talks on an international plastics treaty.
The first day of the gathering will focus on the core tenet of the treaty, which centers around whether plastic production targets will be imposed on countries or if countries will be permitted to decide what their targets will be.
The plastic production target has been a subject of interest among countries and is expected to continue in Nairobi.
In May 2023, members gathered in Paris to begin negotiations on the allocation of plastic production targets or to adopt a flexible approach based on the choice of individual countries to decide targets.
The Paris gathering ended with industrialized countries, which included China, the U.S., India, and Saudi Arabia, favoring a flexible agreement that permits states to determine targets.
Their position runs contrary to the position of most developing countries, which wanted a stricter commitment to the agreement, one that would include a multilateral agreement on a plastic production target. The Paris negotiations, which were driven by the International Negotiating Committee (INC), ended without a unified position on production targets.
There are indications that different countries want different things, as can be seen in Graham Forbes recent shift in position on the U.S.
“The main takeaway for many environmental groups, after INC2 [the negotiations in Paris], was how bad the US position was in terms of Paris-style voluntary commitments,” Forbes said.
“We are going to be watching very closely to see how that plays out. We need to be speaking about rules and putting in place regulations.”
In addition, Tim Gabriel, a lawyer and environmentalist at the Environmental Investigations Agency, stated his conviction that countries will find a middle ground between options one and two.
“The Montreal Protocol is generally agreed to be the best multilateral environmental agreement in the world. And we know from the Paris agreement that option number two doesn’t work. If you look at the global stock-take, with the hottest summer on record, which is likely to be the coldest summer for the rest of our lives, the shortcomings of the Paris agreement are becoming clear.”
Gabriel expressed tougher times ahead, stating that the production target question is the “center of gravity” for any agreement to be reached. He also confirmed the role of geopolitics, saying that it is “very difficult on the issue.”
The Nairobi gathering will be another attempt at reaching agreement on how the production target will be approached and if countries are ready to sidestep their individual interests and geopolitical considerations for the future of a safer world.