Plastic-free planet: On penultimate day of INC-3, contact groups complete 1st review of 'zero draft' revised sections

Three contact groups with participating delegates and countries as member were formed by INC Chair to address specific sections of the zero draft  

By Zumbish
Published: Sunday 19 November 2023
At INC-3 Day 6, delegates meeting to discuss possible intersessional work required to prepare for the next meeting in April 2024, co-facilitated by Marine Collignon, France, and Danny Rahdiansyah, Indonesia. Photo: Earth Negotiations Bulletin / X (formerly Twitter)_

On the sixth day of the ongoing third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3), delegates from across the globe engaged in discussions on revised sections of the Zero Draft text and Synthesis Report. 

The discussion aimed at developing an International Legally Binding Instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, led to contact group sessions. 

The INC Chair informed delegations that the interventions made in the contact groups as well as over 300 written submissions would be incorporated into a new iteration of the Zero Draft. He announced its release in the evening hours. 

Three contact groups with participating delegates and countries as member were formed by INC Chair to address specific sections of the zero draft. 

One group was dedicated for reviewing parts I (text on the objective) and II of the annex, making recommendations on the text of the instrument. The second group would  review parts III and IV of the annex, making recommendations on the text of the instrument.

The third group was constituted to review the document UNEP / PP / INC.3 / INF / 1 and the summary of the preparatory meeting, identifying possible elements not discussed at the second session for inclusion in parts I, V and VI of the draft. Also, to identify any related intersessional work required for the fourth and fifth sessions of INC.

Contact group 1 review proceeding

Gwendalyn Kingtaro Sisior from Palau and Axel Borchmann from Germany served as co-facilitators for Group 1 as the group members continued their review of compilations of submissions. 

On primary plastic polymers, the merged proposals coming from a delegation under the group reflected on an alternative proposal for an “overarching provision” entitled plastic polymers. 

On chemicals and polymers of concern, the co-facilitators proposed options. These included a “no text” option; bracketed text expanding upon options 1 and 2 in the Zero Draft, addressing national standards for additives and trade in raw material, and minimum standards at the national level, respectively. 

A third proposed option 3, on global standards, was towards a ban of chemicals in plastics, contained bracketed text and additional and alternative text. Two additional options proposed to replace the parts on primary plastic polymers and chemicals and polymers of concern with a single alternative provision.

Here, submissions for the compilation text related to waste management, existing plastic pollution, including in the marine environment and just transition were also proposed. 

The co-facilitators later informed delegations that merged proposals were made available for sections on problematic and avoidable plastic products. These included short-lived and single-use plastic products and intentionally added microplastics; exemptions available to a party upon request and product design. 

Also, composition and performance, non-plastic substitutes and extended producer responsibility. 

Contact group 2 review proceeding

The co-facilitators for contact group 2, Katherine Lynch from Australia and Oliver Boachie from Ghana, presented two proposals for the part on implementation and compliance and called for feedback from concerned delegates. 

The first proposal here was a “clean version” reflecting the original Zero Draft paragraph and suggested text by delegates. This version included a paragraph with bracketed alternatives, an alternative of clean unbracketed text, and also an alternative for no text. 

The second proposal consisted of a text also based on the compilation document but in track changes to reflect proposed changes.

Delegates widely supported working on the basis of the proposed clean version. Many of them also make available the version displaying the track changes. Following this, a delegation called for time and date stamps for the documents.

The co-facilitators, meanwhile, noted that they would work with the secretariat to finalise compiling the outstanding issues. Also, that they would issue both a “clean” and “track changes” version, which will be attached to their report.

Contact group 3 review proceeding

Contact Group 3 co-facilitators, Danny Rahdiansyah from Indonesia and Marine Collignon from France, presented a revised proposal regarding the preamble, principles and scope.

The proposed preamble was based on the preambular text of United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) resolution 5 / 14, taking into account the inputs from members during INC-3. While many delegations noted missing elements of their submissions, which included human rights references, there took place a general agreement on the point of the text being an adequate starting point for negotiations.

UNEA resolution 5 / 14 is the mandate to end plastic pollution. 

On principles, three options were presented. Among these, options 1 and 2 were suggestions to place the relevant principles in the preamble and a dedicated provision identifying principles to guide the instrument respectively. Option 3 for the incorporation of relevant principles under relevant substantive provisions.

On scope, the three options presented intended to reflect three possible approaches identified by the committee during INC-3. Among these, Option 1 was to not to include a specific scope provision in the instrument. Option 2, whereas, provided a short scope provision reflecting the language of UNEA resolution 5 / 14. 

Option 3 presented a detailed scope provision. This addressed additional aspects, with respect to what might be covered as part of the full life cycle of plastics; sectoral coverage; types of plastics and products to be covered (material scope); geographical and / or jurisdictional coverage. (Also, scope with respect to trade.) The delegations, in this case, agreed on it being an acceptable basis from which to continue discussions at INC-4.

On Day 6, senior attorney at Center for International Environmental Law Andres Castillo informed that delegates have completed a first review of the contents of the revised sections of the zero draft related to the modalities and means of implementation of the future instrument on plastic pollution. 

Following Day 5 proceedings, when Down To Earth had approached Castillo for a comment, he had said: “We walked into INC-3 with a zero draft of the treaty text and for the past five days, negotiators have walked line-by-line through that text, making suggestions that include amendments, deletions, substitutions, and places where the text needs to be expanded. While much of that work has been done in closed-door sessions, we know that over 360 amendments have been filed. In the closing days of the session, we can look forward to a robust discussion around what is next: advancing a mandate for a streamlined draft of the treaty or further developing this zero draft. Either way, it will be imperative for Member States to adopt a mandate that advances strong intercessional work between now and INC-4 in Ottawa.”

Castillo specialises in international negotiations, the legal aspects of the plastics treaty and right holders’ involvement in multilateral processes. INC began its work in 2022, aiming to complete the negotiations by the end of 2024.

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