Global Leaders Convene in Ottawa to Advance First-Ever Plastic Pollution Treaty

Representatives from 176 countries meet in Ottawa to negotiate a landmark global treaty to tackle the escalating problem of plastic pollution, with tensions over production vs. waste management.

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Sakchi Khandelwal
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Global Leaders Convene in Ottawa to Advance First-Ever Plastic Pollution Treaty

Global Leaders Convene in Ottawa to Advance First-Ever Plastic Pollution Treaty

Representatives from 176 countries are gathering in Ottawa, Canada this week to discuss progress on the first-ever global treaty to reduce plastic pollution. The negotiations, known as INC-4, aim to streamline a 69-page draft text and identify core issues to be finalized at a session in Busan, South Korea later this year.

The treaty seeks to address the rapidly accelerating environmental impact of plastics, which pollute landscapes and waterways while significantly contributing to global carbon emissions. The plastic industry currently accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions, a figure that could grow to 20% by 2050 if current trends continue.

Why this matters: The global plastics treaty represents a landmark effort to tackle the escalating problem of plastic pollution on a worldwide scale. Its outcome could have far-reaching implications for the environment, human health, and the economy.

A key point of tension in the negotiations is whether the focus should be on plastic production or waste management. The fossil fuel industry is pushing against global binding action, while there is broad public support for measures like banning single-use plastics. A core group of 60 countries, including Canada, have formed the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution, with the goal of ending plastic pollution by 2040.

Negotiators face the challenge of finding common ground between countries and industries with differing priorities. Some are calling for a 75% cut in plastic production by 2040, while others favor a more gradual approach focused on recycling. Less than 10% of the plastic used globally is currently recycled, with 80% ending up in landfills or as garbage in Canada.

Demonstrators from around the world marched through Ottawa's downtown core on Sunday, demanding an end to plastic pollution and a reduction in single-use plastics. They highlighted the disproportionate impact of plastic pollution on developing countries, which often lack adequate waste management infrastructure to handle the influx of waste from western countries.

The INC Chair, Ambassador Luis Vayas Valdivieso, expressed optimism that negotiators can come up with an agreed text during the two-week session. "Fourteen Pacific countries have been actively engaged in the process, and are represented at the meeting with the support of the Australian government and the United Nations," he noted.

The negotiations in Ottawa are seen as a critical juncture in the treaty process, with only 14 days of discussion time remaining before the final round in Busan in November. Rapid and significant progress is needed to produce a comprehensive treaty that tackles plastic pollution at its source, including setting binding targets to reduce production and the use of toxic chemicals. The talks are considered a <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-global-plastics-treaty-is-being-negotiated-in-ottawa-this-week-heres-the

Key Takeaways

  • 176 countries discuss first-ever global treaty to reduce plastic pollution.
  • Plastic industry accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions, could reach 20% by 2050.
  • Negotiations focus on plastic production vs. waste management, with calls for 75% cut by 2040.
  • Less than 10% of plastic used globally is recycled, with 80% ending up in landfills or as garbage.
  • Negotiators aim to produce a comprehensive treaty with binding targets to reduce plastic production.