An Early Look at the UK Plastics Treaty Dialogues

@OPLN Media20-07-2022

Durdle Door, a natural limestone arch overlooking the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, England.

This is your Global Treaty Dialogues Report for 7/20

At the UN Ocean Conference in early July, the OPLN and Defra (UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced our partnership for a series of dialogues that will bring together stakeholders from all parts of the plastic system.

For the UK Plastics Treaty Dialogues (UK PTDs), OPLN and Defra have identified 80 impact organizations across civil society, the value chain, industry, academia, ESG finance, waste management/recyclers, and more to shape a treaty that works for all stakeholders. This activist-to-industry network will assemble for six invitation-only meetings over the next two years in order to build capacity for the UK’s participation in the Global Plastics Treaty.

For maximum stakeholder impact, each UK PTD session is set to take place within a month of the next Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meeting. In this framework, all UK stakeholders will be able to communicate their positions directly to the experts representing them at the UN-level. The experts can then bring stakeholder insights to their UN colleagues while they negotiate what has been called “the most significant environmental deal since the Paris accord."

Quick facts: the Global Plastic Treaty’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC)

  • The INC for the Global Plastics Treaty is the body responsible for completing the draft text of the global, legally binding plastics treaty.
  • The INC was formed in March 2022, when UNEA 5.2 voted to start negotiations on the treaty. The text of the Resolution is available here.
  • The INCs goal is to - over at least five sessions - build consensus from government representatives of UN Member States in order to complete this draft by the end of 2024. Once the draft is complete, the UN will hold a diplomatic conference to open it for signature.
  • With preparations nearly finished (see this IISD/ Earth News Bulletin report on the preparatory working group), the first meeting of the INC (INC-1) is set to take place in Uruguay in late November 2022.

What This Means for the UK

Just as the INC was formed, the UK announced support for the negotiations via Defra and the office of the International Environment Minister. On March 3rd, Lord Zac Goldsmith said:

“This agreement by governments at UNEA is truly historic, and I’m so proud that the UK co-sponsored the proposals and helped get them over the line. In the space of just one human lifetime, we have caused unimaginable damage to the global environment, choking every single part of the global ocean with plastic pollution. And although there is much to be done now to turn it into an ambitious and far-reaching treaty, we can now begin to close this ugly chapter. I am so grateful to UK negotiators for their fantastic work securing agreement this week.”

A view of Tobermory, the most northerly point on the Isle of Mull in the Scottish Inner Hebrides

Defra is the lead Department for the plastics treaty negotiations and will negotiate for the UK in the INC process. Leading this effort is the Defra’s Marine Litter Policy team, headed by Julius Piercy.

Dr. Piercy has led the team since September 2019 and holds a PhD in Marine Biology. He and his team are working closely with OPLN on the UK Plastics Treaty Dialogues, helping represent national stakeholders' views to multilateral environmental negotiations at the highest level.

In conjunction with the five invitation-only sessions, OPLN will also design interactive learning primers with up-to-date curated insights into the treaty process and the evolution of solutions to the plastics crisis, both locally and globally.

News Digest - Plastic news in the UK over the past few weeks:

  • OSPAR launches 2nd Marine Litter Regional Action Plan at the United Nations Ocean conference in Lisbon. UK joined other North-East Atlantic states in an action plan that, among other solutions, tackles litter from rivers, phases out additional single-use plastic items, and reduces microplastic releases from shipping.
  • The UK has funded £7.5 million to the Global Plastics Action Partnership (GPAP) to be provided over the next three years, taking the total UK contribution to £15 million.
  • Earlier this month, cross-party MPs called for a ban on plastic pint cups. It is estimated that 100 million such cups are used annually during music festivals and live sporting events, which are ‘rarely collected and processed for recycling’.

More announcements on the UK Plastics Treaty Dialogues are on the way. Check back in with OPLN Media soon for updates.

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