The third meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) to develop a treaty to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution was unable to achieve a single draft as its outcome. After long discussions, delegates were also unable to agree on a mandate for intersessional work ahead of INC-4.

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary report of the meeting recalls the mandate for the talks – the historic UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) resolution 5/14, which established an INC “to develop an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, which could include both binding and voluntary approaches, based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full lifecycle of plastics.” ENB notes that during INC-3, the varying interpretations of the resolution came to the fore. On the “full life cycle of plastic,” for example, some favored measures addressing plastic production, while others supported downstream measures to eliminate plastic waste. Others yet “focused on how best to ensure lasting design standards for plastic products.”

Delegates spent the bulk of the meeting proposing textual submissions to be included in a “revised zero draft,” a mandate for the preparation of which was agreed in the closing hours of INC-3. INC-4 in April 2024 is expected to consider this revised draft that will include the co-facilitators’ compilations of discussions and submissions from INC-3, along with the contact groups’ outcomes regarding the preamble, definitions, principles, scope, means of implementation, and final provisions. The revised draft is also expected to include elements contained in the “Synthesis Report on the submissions received on elements not discussed at either INC-1 or INC-2,” the ENB analysis of the meeting notes.

While the Committee “agreed at INC-2 to conduct intersessional work on technical and scientific issues and on finance and means of implementation issues between INC-3 and INC-4,” “at INC-3 there no longer seemed to be agreement on this plan,” ENB writes. “Some delegations welcomed the intersessional work, noting this would help the negotiations and build a better understanding among delegations. Others voiced concerns that even opening a discussion on certain topics during the intersessional period might prejudge future decisions by the Committee.”

INC-3 convened in Nairobi, Kenya, from 13-19 November 2023. [ENB Coverage of INC-3] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on INC-2] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on INC-1]