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Plastic free world UPSC NOTE

 Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC)

  • The INC, under the UNEP, met in Nairobi from November 13 to 19 for its third round of negotiations to develop an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution worldwide. 

  • Under the UN Environment Assembly Resolution 5/14, the INC is responsible for delivering a global plastics treaty by 2025

  • The INC-3 was a make-or-break opportunity as countries came together to negotiate the ‘zero draft’ text developed by the committee’s secretariat.

with various options for core obligations and control measures. 

  • INC-3 fared relatively better than INC-2, in Paris earlier this year, by being able to discuss the substantive contents of the treaty instead of debating only the rules of procedure.

How do they aim to end plastic pollution?

  • The INC is working to develop an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution. 

The INC aims to achieve this goal by:

  • The INC is considering a comprehensive approach that addresses the entire life cycle of plastic.

from production and design to consumption and disposal. 

  • This means that the instrument will need to address issues such as reducing plastic production, increasing recycling rates, and improving waste management.

  • The INC is aiming to develop a set of global standards that all countries will be required to follow. These standards will need to be ambitious and realistic, and they will need to be supported by a strong monitoring and enforcement mechanism.

  • The INC is encouraging the development of innovative solutions to plastic pollution

and it is also working to attract investment in sustainable plastic production and consumption.

  • The INC is working to build international cooperation on plastic pollution. This includes working with governments, businesses, and civil society organizations to develop and implement effective solutions.

  • In December 2022, the INC adopted a zero draft of the instrument, which outlines the key elements of the agreement. 

  • If UNEA adopts the instrument, it will become the first global legally binding instrument to address plastic pollution. 

What does the ‘zero draft’ say?

  • The zero draft as prepared by the secretariat contained strong options for an international legally binding treaty to end plastic pollution.

  • But during negotiations, member states managed to water down their core obligations, particularly those pertaining to some high-impact elements such as primary polymer production, chemicals of concern, problematic and short-lived plastics, trade, and financial mechanisms, among others. 

  • Some states also disagreed on the objective and scope under UNEA Resolution 5/14.

  • Most countries agreed that the treaty’s objective should be to end plastic pollution and protect human health and the environment

  • The most important provision, that is a reduction in the production of primary polymers, also stirred controversy because of its implications for industry. 

  • The industry’s influence was apparent by its presence — with 36% more fossil fuels and chemicals sector lobbyists at INC-3 than in INC-2 — at the negotiations. 

Does the treaty discuss finance?

  • A financial mechanism is one of the cornerstones of the treaty to determine how it will be implemented, and it was yet another point of divergence. 

  • The zero draft contains options such as imposing a plastic-pollution fee to be paid by plastic polymer producers, and another on reducing the financial flow into projects with a high carbon footprint. 

  • Should these provisions be included, they will have considerable implications, in particular, countries will have to cut, if not eliminate, fossil-fuel subsidies and investments in

environmentally disfavourable technologies such as incineration and waste-to-energy plants

  • This would have been a big victory for the environment and human health if they hadn’t been blocked.

Are there limits on plastic trade?

  • Another crucial provision that the same bloc argued against was the trade in polymers, chemicals, plastic products, and waste. 

  • While the plastics treaty is expected to plug the holes left open by the Basel Convention, any restrictions on trade is considered to be impinging on the freedom and sovereignty of

nations, the bloc contended.

  • According to CIEL’s analysis, the WTO rules provide for sufficient scope for trade restrictions when they are “necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health” and nothing prohibits states under international law to regulate or restrict the trade of certain products and materials.

What is the issue with the rules of procedure?

  • At INC-2, representatives of the member states debated the rules of procedure for two days with no concrete outcome, even as a handful of countries, including India, continued to demand consensus-based decision-making

instead of a two-thirds vote majority

  • The rules of procedure continued to apply provisionally at INC-3, without any final determination, and the meeting passed the buck to INC-4 to deal with them. 

  • If a decision had been made on the voting procedure and the rules of procedure were formally adopted, the negotiators could have better staved off the objections of the like-minded countries at INC-3.

  • In this context, the African group of countries and Small-Island Developing States (SIDS) played an important role. 

  • They advocated for strong binding provisions for the high-impact elements in the treaty. 

  • Their submissions stood out from the rest as they championed the voices of waste-pickers and indigenous peoples, and approached the treaty from a human-rights and public health perspective. 

  • However, the draft text has now tripled in size, with member states adding and deleting the text as befits their interests. 

  • The meetings themselves were frequently delayed and stretched into the wee hours due to the stalling and blocking by like-minded countries.

What’s the takeaway from INC-3?

  • One of the closed-door meetings that discussed the synthesis report and possible list of topics for intersessional work was unable to reach a consensus until the very end. 

  • Thanks to the stalling, INC-3 didn’t adopt the mandate to proceed with developing the first draft. 


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Plastic free world UPSC NOTE
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