Take 3 for the Sea, as an accredited Environment Program with the United Nations, is permitted to participate in sessions run by the United Nations Environment Programme. We were delighted to accredit Australian student Babet de Groot at the recent intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC-3) meeting in Nairobi where member nations negotiated the terms of a Global Plastics Treaty. Here is her summary of the meeting.
Eighteen months since the United Nations Environment Assembly convened in Nairobi, Kenya, to adopt the historic resolution to end plastic pollution, United Nations Member States and Observer Organisations returned to United Nations Environment Programme Headquarters to negotiate a global plastics treaty. From 13 to 19 November 2023, more than 1900 delegates attended the third session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC-3) to develop this international legally binding instrument. Inspired by the “Nairobi Spirit” which had borne, by consensus, the resolution to address the global plastics crisis, delegates were eager to see this aspirational instrument come to fruition.
Proceedings commenced with words of encouragement from President William Samoei Ruto, who was dressed for the Kenyan National Tree Planting Day, a “special holiday” to commence the ambitious tree-planting effort of 500 million seedlings in 2023 and 15 billion trees by 2032. Opening statements highlighting the potential for environmental restoration were also voiced by Executive Secretary Jyoti Mathur-Filipp and INC Chair Gustavo Meza-Cuadra who reminded the Plenary that the power to heal the planet, and mandate for a lifecycle approach to plastics, lies in their hands.
INC-3 commenced where it had concluded six months prior in Paris, France, with the mandate for the Chair to develop a Zero Draft. The Zero Draft consolidates all the previous interventions voiced at INC-1 and INC-2 but is not intended to prejudge future negotiations or the contents of the instrument. Throughout the intercessional period, delegates developed this framework through the submission of interventions relating to matters yet discussed. Summarised by the INC Secretariat in a Synthesis Report presented to the Plenary at the Preparatory Meeting on 11 November 2023, this formed the basis of further negotiations. Many delegates hoped that these discussions would give rise to a mandate to create a First Draft by the end of the week.
Throughout the INC, delegates partook in substantive discussions in informal working groups, where they discussed a category of issues in confidence. They resumed the Contact Groups formed at the previous session of negotiations with the intention of reviewing the Zero Draft. Contact Group 1 discussed objectives, obligations, control measures and voluntary measures, while Contact Group 2 discussed means of implementation. A third group, Contact Group 3, was created to continue the conversation from the Preparatory Meeting regarding the scope, definitions, principles, and preamble of the instrument.
As the end of the week neared, it became clear that a multilateral environmental agreement to end plastic pollution was still a distant prospect. Despite the ambitious timeline to conclude its work by the end of 2024, the INC revisited previous topics of discussion with new priorities not yet captured in the Zero Draft. Earlier hopes to mandate a First Draft by INC-4 dissipated as the Contact Groups elaborated on their priorities, expanding the humble 30-page Zero Draft into an extensive document estimated to exceed 140 pages. The meeting concluded with no plans for intercessional work but everyone is hopeful that Member States and Observer Organisations will be very focussed in the final two sessions of the INC to push for the creation of a legally binding treaty that will address the plastic pollution crisis.
Babet de Groot is a PhD Candidate in Government and International Relations, the University of Sydney, researching the politics and governance of the global plastics crisis. She is also the independent youth advisor to the Australian Delegation and has been surveying young people at the third session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC-3) in Nairobi, Kenya, to understand how a global plastics treaty can best meet their needs.