Plastic-free planet: Evolution of Global Plastics Treaty

UNEP gathered in Paris ahead of the INC-2 that can set the stage for negotiatons on the treaty

By Siddharth Ghanshyam Singh
Published: Monday 29 May 2023
Executive Director UNEP Inger Andersen at the Paris international forum to end plastic pollution in cities. Photo: UNEP

United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on environmental topics. Decisions and resolutions taken by the member states at the assembly also define the work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 

The UNEP gathered in Paris, France May 29, 2023 for the second meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) on Plastic Pollution, also known as INC-2. 

Read more: Go circular to end plastic pollution, UNEP report urges ahead of global meet

INC-2 is the international community’s chance to set the stage for negotiations on the substance of a global deal to end plastic pollution to edge closer to protecting ecosystems, species and humanity from the grave impacts of the linear plastics economy, Executive Director UNEP Inger Andersen stated in her speech. 

The right outcome from INC-2 will move the deal down the road. But how did the committee come into existence?

History of INC

UNEA was formed in 2012 to create an effective international environmental governance system. The INC is the body of member states of the UN that will be negotiating the treaty, since the treaty negotiation process is led by the member states.

Every two years, 193 of its member states, businesses and civil societies come together to set priorities for global environmental policies, develop international environmental law, and agree on policies to address the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges. 

The momentum for a global agreement on plastic pollution has been building for years. Plastics have consistently been discussed in the UNEA discussions since it first met in 2014. In almost all the meetings, the discussions mainly revolved around downstream issues like marine litter and microplastics.

UNEA meeetings and resultions over the years


Resolution number

Title of the resolution



Marine Plastic debris and Micro-plastics



Marine plastic litter and micro-plastics



Marine litter and micro-plastics



Marine litter and micro-plastics

UNEA 5.2


End Plastic Pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument

Source: United Nations Environment Assembly and Governing Council Sessions

In 2017 at UNEA-3, countries agreed to open an ad-hoc open-ended expert group on marine litter and microplastics — to study the global landscape of efforts to address plastic pollution. The member states concluded there was a need for an international instrument as we do not have enough regulatory responses to address the plastic pollution crisis.

Read more: Life of Plastic: DTE’s coverage of the UN summit in Uruguay

The idea of a global plastic treaty was set in motion after India’s call for a global ban on single-use plastic at the UNEA 4 in 2019. In UNEA 5.2- a historic resolution was adopted to “End Plastic Pollution”, keeping in mind the entire life cycle of plastic, from the extraction of raw materials to the disposal of plastic waste.

The resolution called for the convening of an open-ended working group (OEWG) and an INC. The OEWG was convened and met from May 30-June 2, 2022 in Dakar, Senegal.

The deliberations of the OEWG eventually fed into the INC meetings. The INC will meet four times over a period of two years to finalise the text of the international legally binding instrument.

In INC 5, scheduled in 2025, the member states will decide whether or not to ratify the legally binding instrument. In the INC-5, the plenipotentiaries will meet and decide whether to ratify the ban.

If the timeline is kept, this will be the fastest-developed text for a treaty.

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