Pivotal fourth session of negotiations on a global plastics treaty opens in Ottawa

OTTAWA, April 24: The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-4), opened today in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. The session aims to advance negotiations so that the Committee can finalize, at its firth session in November, the text of the instrument.

Members will also decide on intersessional work – informal INC sessions taking place between the official meetings – required between the INC-4 and INC-5, to support the further development of the text, a press release from the United Nations Environment Programme said today.

INC-4 is the penultimate stage of the negotiations; it follows three earlier rounds of negotiations: INC-1, which took place in Punta del Este, in November 2022, INC-2, which was held in Paris in June 2023, and INC-3, which happened in Nairobi in November 2023.

“We are seeing convergence on eliminating the uses that are problematic and avoidable. We will continue to need plastic for specific uses, such as renewable energy technologies. But there is growing agreement that short-lived and single use can go,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.

“We can be proud of what we have achieved. But a job half-done is a job not done. Time is against us – both in terms of finalizing the instrument and how much more the planet can take. As we deliberate, plastic pollution continues to gush into ecosystems,” she added. “So, I ask for INC-4 to show energy, commitment, collaboration, and ambition. To make progress. And set the stage for INC-5 to finalize an instrument that will end plastic pollution, once and for all.”

INC-5, to be held in Busan, the Republic of Korea, from 25 November to 2 December 2024, is intended as the end of the INC process. It will be followed by a Diplomatic Conference where Heads of State will sign the agreement.

“We are here seeking to advance these negotiations and deliver a treaty because collectively we have recognized that multilateral cooperation – this INC process, a new legally binding international instrument – have a critical role to play in providing the effective and impactful solutions needed to end plastic pollution. The spirit of multilateralism is: “together, we are stronger”,” said Luis Vayas Valdivieso, Chair of the INC.

“Let us negotiate with accountability and integrity –grounded in the scientific evidence and facts on the scale and urgency of ending plastic pollution. Let us also approach this task with optimism, that it is both necessary and possible for us to achieve this new treaty,” he added.

The start of INC-4 was preceded by regional consultations and a conversation with Observers, and Canada hosted a Partnerships Day and a Ministerial Day on the sidelines of the session.

“Agreeing to a global agreement on plastic pollution by the end of 2024 would mark one of the most significant environmental decisions and would be a first-of-its-kind agreement to unite the world around a shared goal to end plastic pollution,” said Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

“Canada has put in place a number of measures to stem the tide of plastic pollution at home, and we are keen to keep up the momentum for a global agreement that aligns with our ambition. We welcome delegations, partners, and stakeholders from around the world to Ottawa for INC-4 to continue the ambitious work needed to achieve this united goal.”

At the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in February 2024, Canada convened the other host countries of the INC process – France, Kenya, the Republic of Korea, and Uruguay – for a Ministerial meeting, under the umbrella of the Host Country Alliance, to galvanize momentum toward the global instrument.

“Seize this opportunity, make these seven days count, deliver a text that is as close as possible to the final agreement that we all want to see,” said Jyoti Mathur- Filipp, Executive Secretary of the INC. “You delegates know the issues that need to be addressed at this session, and that flexibility will be needed to reach consensus. This is the only way forward.”

The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee began its work in the second half of 2022 following a resolution from the UN Environment Assembly for its set up. Its plan to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution is expected to complete by end of 2024. This would cover the marine environment, which could include both binding and voluntary approaches, based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastic.