Skip to main content

UN Plastic Treaty negotiations process critique

As the second session of the Plastic Treaty negotiations unfolds in Paris, serious questions have been raised about the process. While the United Nations Environment Assembly called for ‘‘the widest and most effective participation possible,’’ logistics were cited as the reason for restricting participation to one person per registered NGO. This affects engagement of the most impacted and vulnerable populations (e.g., waste pickers, children and youth, Indigenous representatives). It also limits scientists’ inputs. Under UN accreditation rules many independent academics rely on NGOs to register and risk being ‘‘locked out of the room.’’ This is particularly salient as intergovernmental ambitions to deal with the pollution crisis (including plastics) are yet to be supported by robust independent scientific assessments like those of the IPCC for Climate Change or IPBES for biodiversity loss. This is illustrated by the controversy following the recent launch of the ‘‘Turning off the tap’’ report subcontracted to three institutions and intended to inform negotiations. Its scope excludes consideration of a cap on production referring instead to eliminating ‘‘unnecessary production’’ and implicitly frames this systemic issue as driven by demand and consumers’ behaviour. Some assumptions, e.g., that circularity minimises impacts of chemicals in plastics, are not supported by scientific evidence. Given the speed at which such assessments are drafted, they cannot be expected to be as robust and thorough as those of the IPCC or IPBES. Transparency and the meaningful contribution of independent scientists is crucial to the success of the Plastics Treaty. For this, they must be in the room.

Read more.

View all news