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Negotiations on plastic agreements: oil countries block progress

An international agreement against the plastic epidemic is expected to be in place next year. However, there has been little progress in a week-long summit meeting.

A person rides a cargo bike through a large mountain of plastic waste.

Garbage mountain in Bangladesh: The planet is contaminated with plastic – can this be combated? Photo: Syed Mahabubul Kader

NAIROBI afp | The Negotiations for an international agreement to curb plastic waste ended on Sunday without agreement on key points. At the week-long talks at the headquarters of the UN Environment Program (UNEP) in the Kenyan capital Nairobi The representatives of the oil producing countries Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia in particular opposed thisto encourage a reduction in plastic production.

Around 60 countries, however, had called for a treaty in which certain plastic products would be removed from the market through bans – and which would contain rules to limit plastic consumption.

In addition, clear differences of opinion became apparent on the question of whether the contractual provisions should be legally binding or merely have the character of voluntary commitments.

According to information from negotiating circles, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia and a small number of other oil-producing countries prevented progress in the negotiations through a large number of new proposals. As a result, the text of the contract grew massively and the processing of the individual points was slowed down considerably.

Plastic production has doubled in 20 years

Representatives from more than 170 countries met in Nairobi to negotiate the inclusion of concrete measures in a globally binding agreement to end plastic pollution. A draft text published in September was discussed for the first time.

It was the third of five rounds of negotiations. Last year, 175 nations committed to a legally binding UN agreement against the Plastic pollution of the environment and oceans to agree.

The non-governmental organization Gaia accused UNEP of having enabled a minority of states to block the negotiations through its conduct of negotiations in Nairobi.

The German section of the environmental protection organization WWF also expressed disappointment. So little was achieved at the meeting in Nairobi that it was “hardly worth it,” explained WWF representative Florian Titze. However, an agreement is still possible by 2025, and the federal government must “take every opportunity for further progress” to achieve this.

“Western” progress in dealing with plastic waste

The UNEP itself expressed confidence. “Substantial” progress has been made in dealing with plastic waste, the organization said. The international chemical industry association ICCA said that the negotiations had improved an “inadequate” draft and that the current draft text took much greater account of the “range of ideas”.

The last two rounds of negotiations for an agreement on dealing with plastic waste are scheduled for next year: the first in April 2024, the second in South Korea in November of the same year.

Global plastic production has doubled in the past 20 years. Millions of tons of plastic end up in the environment and the ocean, often in the form of microscopic particles. This so-called microplastic can not only get into the digestive tract, but also into the bloodstream of living beings.

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