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Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution - Technical Resource for Pacific Island Courtiers

Reducing Plastic Production to Achieve Climate Goals: Key Considerations for the Plastics Treaty Negotiations

Plastic production is currently on an upward trajectory and is projected to continue increasing exponentially. Global plastic polymer production doubled from 2000 to 2019, reaching 460 million tonnes (Mt) per year,1 and it is anticipated to almost triple from 2019 levels by 2050.2 This uncontrolled growth threatens the global climate, as well as human health, biodiversity, human rights, and environmental justice.

The world is already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change, which will worsen with each fraction of a degree of warming. To minimize further temperature rise and avoid truly catastrophic climate change, GHG emissions must be reduced urgently anywhere that they can be effectively and rapidly cut. Scaling back plastic production represents one such area. The Paris Agreement, which makes no reference to fossil fuels or their petrochemical derivatives, does not ensure adequate action to address the climate impacts of plastics. It leaves the decision of where to curb emissions and by how much to States. Even if fully implemented, States’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement remain woefully inadequate to limit warming to 1.5°C.6 The global plastics treaty thus must complement the efforts of this agreement to ensure a swift and effective reduction in emissions from plastics.

Several Member States of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution have already identified the need to tackle global plastic production to address the climate crisis. This brief aims to inform the ongoing plastics treaty negotiations by compiling the current evidence on how prevailing production trends are fundamentally incompatible with achieving planetary climate goals, and provides recommendations on how obligations to address plastic production could be incorporated in the treaty to support their achievement.

Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution - Technical Resource for Pacific Island Courtiers

INC Fact Sheet: Abandoned, Lost and Otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear

Sea-based marine plastic pollution is roughly estimated to comprise around 20% of all marine plastic pollution and represents a major threat to marine ecosystems. However, sea-based marine plastic pollution has not been sufficiently addressed to date, representing a significant gap in global governance. Sea-based plastic pollution largely stems from shipping (35%), with an estimated share of 65% from the fishing sector.

Abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) is an ever-growing problem, impacting marine resources, wildlife and habitats. When fishing gear is lost, it continues to catch both target and non-target species – also known as ‘ghost-fishing’ – entangling and killing threatened and protected marine animals and commercially important fish species.

Lost gear also damages coral reefs and the seabed, while surface ALDFG presents a significant safety hazard for shipping and maritime activities, such as propeller entanglement. The existing governance framework to address fishing gear requires significant improvement due to the current fragmentation of laws and regulation across instruments – predominantly the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), in addition to a myriad of regional conventions and fisheries management bodies. In 2019, UN Environment published a report calling for the “development of a comprehensive global strategy to address ALDFG”, building on existing work and ensuring coordination across several key areas4. For this reason, member states have been discussing potential measures for addressing ALDFG within the negotiations for a new International Legally Binding Instrument (ILBI), with particular consideration for what ending plastic pollution ‘including in the marine environment’ could look like.

Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution - Technical Resource for Pacific Island Courtiers

INC Fact Sheet Designing Products and Systems for Safe and Sustainable Reuse

(Publications under review and may be updated prior to 30 September)

Reuse is a key component of the 3Rs + return (reduce, reuse and recycle) approach to reducing pollution but it has not yet been fully embraced in policy despite its reference in the Sustainable Development Goals. While it may appear as a new concept, before the advent of single-use plastics (SUP) traditional practices of reuse and refill were commonplace and are still a part of everyday life around the world. More recently, governments have recognised the impact of SUP products and imposed bans on specific items. However, this often leads to problematic alternatives and substitutes and perpetuates the take, make, dispose mentality. In reality, reuse comes higher up the waste hierarchy and deserves greater consideration by policymakers.

Comparing SUP and reusable packaging, reusable packaging is the more environmentally friendly option. The underlying logic is as simple as it is compelling: by using and reusing an item many times before it ends up as waste, the environmental costs, the amount of waste generated and the resources needed to produce and dispose of it can be divided by the number of uses. There are also significant opportunities for job creation. Deposit systems (not just specific to reuse) can create 11-38 times more job opportunities than other waste management alternatives. In this context the negotiations towards an International Legally Binding Instrument to End Plastic Pollution (ILBI) have included discussions on reuse as a pathway to reduce pollution. Reuse, if designed and defined correctly in the ILBI, has the potential to increase safe circularity and support the overall objective of ending plastic pollution.

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