EXCLUSIVE: US seeks allies as division emerges over global plastic pollution treaty

WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (Reuters) – The United States is seeking to forge a coalition of countries to advance negotiations on a global plastic pollution treaty, weeks after launching a similar group that includes several other G7 nations, according to a document seen by Reuters. .

The move underscores its desire to keep the treaty’s focus on individual countries’ efforts in a model similar to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, rather than providing new global rules favored by other major nations, according to six government and civil society sources involved with the program. talks.

UN members agreed in February to create the world’s first treaty to tackle the scourge of plastic waste that stretches from ocean trenches to mountaintops, with the goal of completing it by the end of 2024.

Register now to get free unlimited access to Reuters.com

In August, 20 countries, including Britain, Canada, France, Germany and many developing countries at the end of the environmental crisis formed a “highly ambitious coalition to end plastic pollution” calling for the treaty to include global standards, bans and restrictions on plastic.

The sources said the United States is now seeking to form its own group with a different approach, and has invited several countries to join, including Australia and Japan.

A concept note about her alliance seen by Reuters says that “the development of national action plans” should be the “primary mechanism” for countries to contribute to the treaty, an approach that environmentalists say will not be strong enough to curb the rampant problem.

The draft document says the US-led coalition aims to begin on or before the first round of treaty negotiations scheduled to take place in Uruguay from November 28 to December 2.

The State Department did not directly answer questions about the proposed alliance.

In an emailed statement, Monica Medina, the US official leading treaty negotiations, said the country is committed to ending plastic pollution by 2040.

“The best way is through a Paris-like agreement that helps countries take ambitious action and hold them accountable, let’s be innovative in finding solutions, and lead to action now rather than later,” she said.

The United States has been a key architect of the state-driven approach to the Paris Agreement, a landmark international deal to limit global warming to at least two degrees Celsius. But that deal has faced criticism for the lack of an enforcement mechanism as countries missed deadlines to step up their climate measures.

Japan’s Deputy Minister for Global Environmental Affairs, Hiroshi Ono, said he was aware of a proposed alliance on plastics involving the United States, but declined to comment further. Australia’s environment ministry said in a statement it was aware of the formation of various alliances, without elaborating.

‘light touch’

Environmentalists say actions by individual countries must be complemented by more regressive measures such as coordinated restrictions on the production of virgin plastic and global design standards to increase the possibility of plastics being recycled.

plastic production expect for will double in the next 20 years while the amount of plastic flowing into the ocean will triple. This will lead to widespread environmental damage, destroy sensitive ecosystems, and put some species at risk of extinction, according to a study by the World Wildlife Fund.

“We don’t need a treaty for countries to decide for themselves what their national actions should be. We need a treaty that can really add on top of that,” said Eric Lindberg, director of global plastics policy at the WWF, describing such an approach as a “light touch.” .”

However, Ono, the Japanese environment official, said the treaty could not take a “one-size-fits-all approach” because countries had different “national conditions” and “priorities” toward upstream measures, such as plastic production, or downstream measures, such as waste collection.

Calls for tougher global measures such as those focused on plastic production have also met with resistance from the powerful oil and petrochemical companies that make the plastic. Reuters reported in February that industry groups are pressing governments, including the United States, to reject any deal that would restrict plastics manufacturing.

Greenpeace campaign director John Hocevar and two other sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that US officials have said privately that they are concerned about agreeing to any global rules that would likely be rejected by a divided Congress.

This is why the United States was keen to pursue a Paris-like deal, the sources said, which did not need congressional approval because it relied largely on voluntary commitments based on national laws.

“If we act out of office, we will only negotiate what we can accomplish at home, we have lost before we even begin,” said Jane Patton, Campaign Manager for US Plastics and Petrochemicals. Center for International Environmental Law.

Register now to get free unlimited access to Reuters.com

(Reporting by John Gedi and Valerie Volcovici) Editing by Margarita Choi

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Comment