The zero draft of the Global Plastic Treaty released in early September offers a wide range of options, some of which have the potential to result in an effective legally binding instrument to combat plastic pollution. However, although member states are calling for treaty negotiations to be based on the best available science, there are currently obstacles to independent scientific representation.

The Scientists' Coalition for an Effective Plastics Treaty, a group of 300 independent scientists with expertise in plastic pollution, has developed a response to the zero draft with their comments and reflections. The zero draft will serve as the basis for the third round of intergovernmental negotiations (INC-3) to be held in Nairobi Nov. 13-19. The Scientists' Coalition made its response public on the afternoon of November 3 and will circulate it with national delegation points of contact in order to support them in the negotiations. Renewable Matter received a preview of this text, which it was able to explore further by interviewing two contributing scientists, Trisia Farrelly and Susanne M. Brander.

Key requirements for an effective treaty

The zero draft text is divided into six parts and seven annexes.  Each section has been commented on by members of the Scientists' Coalition who, as is the case in the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in climate negotiations, are divided into Working Groups (WGs) based on the specific expertise of the various scientists. WG1. Upstream measures and impacts; W2. Circular Economy; WG3. Polymers, chemicals and products of concern; WG4. Waste management and existing plastics pollution; WG5. Indigenous and Traditional knowledge; WG6. WTO dialogue on plastic pollution (DPP); WG7. Food System Plastics.

For those elements of the treaty on which there has already been discussion among member country delegations during INC-1 and INC-2, there are two or three options in the zero draft, generally representing progressively decreasing levels of ambition. “Our general endorsement lies with ‘Option 1’ as the starting point for negotiations for most provisions, given their higher ambition and better suitability to achieve the mandate of resolution [of the United Nations Environment Assembly, ed.] 5/14 to achieve sustainable production and consumption of plastics. These provisions must be grounded in the zero waste hierarchy, and embody the principles of prevention, precaution, polluter-pays, and non-regression” reads the Scientists' Coalition response. 

Scientists say there are five key requirements that the future Global Plastics Treaty must have. Time-bound, legally binding primary polymer reduction targets for each Party to ensure the attainment of a global aggregate reduction target. Safety, sustainability, essentiality, and transparency criteria for all materials. Initiation of sector-specific strategies and work programs. A dedicated multilateral fund, plastic pollution fees and mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility. An independent, trusted science-policy interface including expert committees under the Governing Body of the instrument.