In the final hours of the fourth round of negotiations on the revised zero draft of the global plastics treaty, Pacific delegates remain steadfast in their resolve to have a key regional aspiration on the sustainable production of primary plastic polymer to be included in the treaty text.

The negotiations to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-4) concludes tonight in Ottawa, Canada.

In March 2022, countries adopted UNEA Resolution 5/14 with the mandate to promote sustainable production and consumption of plastics based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full lifecycle of plastic. This includes the initial extraction of fossil fuels for plastics production to the end-of-life disposal of plastic waste.

However, there is still a divergence of views among member states on the issue of the production of primary plastic polymers. For Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS), which are disproportionately affected by global plastic pollution, addressing the issue of unsustainable production is essential for the achievement of the original mandate of ending plastic pollution.

“With less than 7 months remaining, members are still divided on many aspects, which for us is quite concerning. We cannot afford to indulge the interests of a select few because they have nothing to lose, and we have everything to lose,” said Dr Sivendra Michael, Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Environment and Climate Change while addressing the plenary.

“We journeyed thousands of miles with the hope to leave here with some progress. Each day, most of us reflect on how to communicate progress to our leaders and communities that we represent on behalf of our nation and region,” he added.

Fiji along with 14 Pacific SIDS is supporting the obligation to prevent and minimise impacts from the production and consumption of primary plastic polymers, including information on imports and exports.

Plastic polymers are large synthetic molecules composed of smaller units called monomers. They are bonded together with the help of chemicals. These polymers, as well as the monomers and other chemicals used in their production, are manufactured from either fossil-based or bio-based feedstocks.

In the last seven days, over 2000 delegates from more than 170 countries have worked throughout the day and into the evenings to streamline the revised zero draft treaty text. Delegates have been conducting specific and technical textual negotiations in contact and sub-groups and later validating the streamlined text, so that the Committee can finalise, at its fifth session (INC-5) in November, the text of the future instrument.

The Chair of INC has proposed intersessional work to allow for further discussions ahead of INC 5, including modalities and timelines, which will be discussed later tonight in the closing plenary.

“There is too much to resolve before INC 5, that’s why these intersessional are critical. As it stands, it’s clear that the production of primary plastic polymer is still a work in progress,” Dr Michael said.

“We know the intersessional need to be focused and we support the items proposed by the Chair. However, this does not preclude the discussion of primary plastic polymer at INC-5 and ” he said.

Pacific SIDS also supported a Conference Room Paper on behalf of Rwanda and Peru on global target for the production of primary plastic polymers.

The fourth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment was held in Ottawa, Canada, from 23-29 April 2024.

The Pacific Islands are represented by the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu through the support of the Government of Australia and the United Nations.