Plastic Treaty: the start of negotiations blocked for two days by a political showdown

The 175 countries gathered since Monday in Paris to draw up the first outlines of a treaty against plastic pollution have not succeeded in starting negotiations on the substance of the subject because of a blockage on the rules for the final adoption of the text. .

Saudi Arabia and several Gulf countries as well as Russia, China, India and even Brazil refuse that the future treaty be approved by a two-thirds majority vote if a consensus is not found.

Opposite, a majority of countries defend the vote as a last resort, which would make it possible to override a blocking minority. Or they consider, at the very least, that this question can be decided later.

Plenary was adjourned in the early evening and an informal group was charged with continuing discussions with the mandate to find a way out allowing negotiations to start on Wednesday morning.

“We are missing out on what brings us together here, namely plastic pollution,” thundered Camila Zepeda of the Mexican delegation on Tuesday morning. “We are wasting time and energy in discussions that go around in circles (…) Let’s get to the point”, she claimed, warmly applauded by the majority of the delegations and by the observers of the NGOs, present in the stands.

“It is the right of member states to make suggestions” and “we are not in favor of the erroneous definition of the consensus of certain states”, retorted a diplomat from Iran, a country also opposed.

According to a European negotiator, “the question has already been decided” during the first round of negotiations at the end of 2022 in Uruguay, “and these countries are trying to go back”.

“The strategy of some countries is to delay the debates,” says Joan-Marc Simon, director of Zero Waste Europe, “because if we want an ambitious treaty that covers the entire plastic life cycle, it will take time. time to negotiate.

No draft agreement is yet on the table, and the Paris summit, which ends on Friday, will only be followed by three other negotiation meetings by the end of 2024.

For the activist, “these countries want a treaty, but which only talks about the end of life of plastic, improving waste management and avoiding releases into the environment”. Thus ruling out the issues of reduced production, toxicity of certain compounds, microplastics, etc.

“It has now been two days since the global plastics treaty has been blocked by a coalition of reluctant countries, led by Saudi Arabia,” Graham Forbes, a Greenpeace official, said on Tuesday evening: “We are asking countries to stop to waste time and start discussing the issues that are critical to solving the plastic pollution crisis.”

The Paris climate or Kunming-Montreal agreements on biodiversity were approved by consensus, like most treaties established under the aegis of the United Nations, that is to say without a vote, even by a show of hands.

An approval by vote, for lack of consensus, would not however be unprecedented. It was notably used in 2013 when 140 countries adopted the International Convention on Mercury, signed in Minamata (Japan).

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