Activists Stage Die-In as 175 Nations Begin UN Talks on Global Plastics Treaty in Ottawa

Activists stage dramatic 'die-in' protest as UN negotiations on a global plastic treaty begin in Canada, with calls for ambitious production cuts to tackle the growing crisis of plastic pollution.

Sakchi Khandelwal
New Update
Activists Stage Die-In as 175 Nations Begin UN Talks on Global Plastics Treaty in Ottawa

Activists Stage Die-In as 175 Nations Begin UN Talks on Global Plastics Treaty in Ottawa

On April 23, 2024, activists staged a dramatic 'die-in' protest as representatives from 175 nations gathered in Ottawa, Canada to begin vital United Nations discussions aimed at agreeing on a global treaty to reduce ubiquitous plastic pollution. The activists demanded an ambitious plan to radically cut plastic production, highlighting the urgent need to address the growing crisis of plastic waste that has reached even the most remote parts of the planet.

The talks in Ottawa mark the fourth of five planned rounds of negotiations to develop a legally binding agreement by the end of 2024 that would eliminate plastic waste by 2040. Canadian Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault emphasized that the treaty needs to be ambitious and include limits on plastic production, stating, "Reducing production is the only way to keep plastic out of the environment." Environmental groups like Greenpeace are calling for the agreement to include a 75% reduction in plastic production by 2040.

However, the issue of production caps has been a point of contention in previous negotiations, with petrochemical-producing countries opposing limits on their ability to extract and export fossil fuels for plastic production. Guilbeault expressed hope that over two-thirds of the draft text could be agreed upon by the end of the Ottawa talks, leaving the most contentious issues for later rounds of negotiation.

The stakes are high, as plastic pollution has potentially grave impacts on oceans and climate. Annual plastics production has more than doubled in the past 20 years to 460 million tonnes and is on track to triple within four decades, with only 9% being recycled. The UN Environment Program executive director warned that "time is against us" in finalizing the instrument and addressing the planet's capacity to handle the pollution.

Why this matters: The global plastics treaty negotiations in Ottawa represent a critical opportunity to address the rapidly escalating problem of plastic pollution, which has extensive ramifications for the environment, human health, and climate change. The outcome of these talks will determine the ambition and effectiveness of the first-ever legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution, with the potential to shape the future of plastic production and waste management on a global scale.

Luis Vayas Valdivieso, an Ecuadorean diplomat chairing the talks, emphasized the importance of approaching the task with optimism, accountability, and integrity based on science. He expressed confidence that countries will unite to secure an agreement despite challenges in overcoming the impasse between plastic-producing countries and those seeking to tackle plastic pollution head-on. The upcoming meeting in Ottawa is seen as a pivotal moment to finalize the treaty before the 2024 deadline, with the goal of having the text ready for all countries to sign the declaration next year.

Key Takeaways

  • Activists stage 'die-in' protest as UN discusses global plastic treaty in Ottawa.
  • Treaty aims to eliminate plastic waste by 2040 through binding production limits.
  • Petrochemical countries oppose production caps, delaying agreement on contentious issues.
  • Plastic pollution has grave environmental, health, and climate impacts, requiring urgent action.
  • Ottawa talks seen as pivotal to finalize treaty before 2024 deadline for global adoption.