19 May 2022
13:00–14:15

Venue: International Environment House I, Room 3 & Online | Webex

Organization: Geneva Environment Network

This briefing on the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) to prepare for the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to End Plastic Pollution, taking place in Dakar, Sénégal, from 30 May to 1 June 2022, was held within the framework of the Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues.

About this Event

The United Nations Environment Assembly made history in March 2022, by adopting a resolution setting up the path to a global treaty to end plastic pollution.  The resolution requests the convening of an intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, during the second half of 2022, with the ambition of completing its work by the end of 2024. An ad-hoc open-ended working group will convene in Dakar, Senegal, from 30 May to 1 June 2022 to prepare for the work of the intergovernmental negotiating committee.

Rather than the end of the journey, this resolution represents a new turning point, from which much work still has to be done. Through the Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues, the Geneva Environment Network and it partners support actors in the Geneva community and beyond, engaged in this process.

This event, held 10 days ahead of the ad-hoc OEWG meeting in Dakar, provided updates on the preparations of this important event and how stakeholders can engage in the process.

The Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues

The world is facing a plastic crisis, the status quo is not an option. Plastic pollution is a serious issue of global concern which requires an urgent and international response involving all relevant actors at different levels. Many initiatives, projects and governance responses and options have been developed to tackle this major environmental problem, but we are still unable to cope with the amount of plastic we generate. In addition, there is a lack of coordination which can better lead to a more effective and efficient response.

Various actors in Geneva are engaged in rethinking the way we manufacture, use, trade and manage plastics. The Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues aim at outreaching and creating synergies among these actors, highlighting efforts made by intergovernmental organizations, governments, businesses, the scientific community, civil society and individuals in the hope of informing and creating synergies and coordinated actions. The dialogues highlight what the different stakeholders in Geneva and beyond have achieved at all levels, present the latest research and governance options.

Following the landmark resolution adopted at UNEA-5 to end plastic pollution and building on the outcomes of the first two series, the third series of dialogues will encourage increased engagement of the Geneva community with future negotiations on the matter. These include the meetings of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) from the second half of 2022 to 2024, as well as preparatory meetings within the ad-hoc open-ended working group during the first half of 2022. The series will also continue to foster stronger cooperation and coordinated actions ahead of other milestones in the environmental agenda, including the BRS COPs, SAICM ICCM5, the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, UNEA-6 and other processes in Geneva, such as at the WTO.

Speakers

Abderrahim AIT SLIMANE

Minister Plenipotentiary, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco in Geneva | UNEA Presidency

Cheikh NDIAYE SYLLA

Director of Ministerial Cabinet for Environment and Sustainable Development, Senegal

Brenda KOEKKOEK

Programme Manager, Circle of Excellence on Plastic Pollution, UN Environment Programme

Valentina SIERRA

Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations in Geneva

Anthony TALOULI

Director, Waste Management and Pollution Control Programme, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme

David AZOULAY

Managing Attorney, CIEL Geneva Office & Director of Environmental Health Program, CIEL

Delphine GARIN

Manager, Plastics & Packaging, World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Damaris CARNAL

Switzerland’s Focal Point for the UN Environment Programme

Summary

Welcoming Remarks

Abderrahim AIT SLIMANE, Minister Plenipotentiary, Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco in Geneva, UNEA Presidency

The Permanent Mission of Morocco is glad to participate in this session of the Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues, which have already facilitated engagement and discussion among the stakeholders in Geneva. Plastic pollution is a global problem, thus requiring global action. Solutions require coordination, shared responsibility, and a collective approach. The ongoing work toward a new legally binding global agreement to end plastic pollution is important for our future.

At UNEA-5, numerous groundbreaking resolutions were adopted by the assembly, including on plastic pollution. Morocco, as the President of UNEA, is aware that the challenges related to marine litter and plastic pollution can be addressed within the framework of resolutely committed international cooperation. Morocco has always supported this fronting on global governance on marine litter and plastic pollution and is delighted with the adoption of the resolution at UNEA. Morocco is also welcoming the OEWG meeting in Dakar, as an opportunity to prepare, discuss and agree on the timetable and organization of the work of the INC with the ambition of completing this comprehensive framework on by the end of 2024.

Morocco wishes to reiterate the importance of translating the UNEA-5 resolutions into concrete actions, starting with those related to plastic pollution, chemical products, and waste. These actions cannot be achieved without multilateral cooperation and international solidarity in the fight against environmental challenges. The real work is just beginning and the next meeting in Dakar is a step forward in this process. Believing that the solution advocated must be felt by the citizens of the world as their right to a sustainable environment, Morocco is determined to spare no effort and work with all stakeholders to consolidate the authority of UNEA as an institution seeking the global environmental agenda.

Preparations for the OEWG Meeting in Dakar

Update from UNEP | Brenda KOEKKOEK, Programme Manager, Circle of Excellence on Plastic Pollution, UNEP

At every UNEA since the first one in 2014, governments have adopted resolutions directly addressing marine litter and microplastics or broadly linked to the topic of plastic pollution. Today, the political messaging about this issue can be found everywhere. The landmark UNEA resolution adopted in March requests the UNEP Executive Director to convene an INC to start its work during the second half of 2022 and completing by the end of 2024, which is a very ambitious timeline.

It also requested the Executive Director to convene an Ad Hoc OEWG, which will take place now from 30 May to 1 June in Dakar to prepare for the work of the INC and ultimately the development of an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution including in the marine environment. The timeline for preparing for the meeting has been very tight as the assignment was given to UNEP on 1 March. UNEP thanks all of those who have been involved in the process and for the support and patience.

The INC will be based on a comprehensive approach that will address the full life cycle of plastic. Paragraph 3 of the resolution lists the aspects that the INC will consider, including the promotion of sustainable production and consumption, technical and capacity means of implementation, finance mechanisms, national action plans, data monitoring, reporting, and compliance. The resolution further outlines that both legally binding and voluntary approaches are to be considered.

Logistics. The OEWG meeting will be held from 30 May to June 1, with a pre-day on 29 May with regional coordination meetings and multi-stakeholder dialogues. The meetings will be held from Dakar in a hybrid format, on the Interactio platform. All practical information can be found on the OEWG website. Registration closed on 18 May, with around 860 participants registered, 35% of which will attend in person. THE OEWG meeting will be following UNEA rules of procedure as a subsidiary body and have full interpretation.

The key goal of this meeting is to prepare for the work of the INC, which three key aspects on the agenda. UNEP has prepared documents which are available online (in English, and in all UN languages by Friday 20 May EOB)

  • Timetable and organization of work for the INC → see the document “Approaches to the work of the INC
  • Draft rules of procedure for the INC → see the document “Draft rules of procedure for the work of the INC”. This draft was developed taking the Minamata process as an exemple, and should serve as a basis for negotiations. UNEP is hoping that the rules of procedures can be finalized at the OEWG and that the INC can adopt them quite quickly upon the commencement of its work.
  • Organization of a forum to exchange of information and activities related to plastic pollution → documents to be made available soon, check the OEWG webpage

In parallel to the OEWG meeting, a set of multi-stakeholder dialogues are in preparation. These will open to all, even non-registered participants, through a public link. The dialogues will address:

  • 29 May | A Life Cycle Approach to end Plastic Pollution
  • 30 May | Just and inclusive transition to a plastic pollution-free economy
  • 31 May | Inspiring consumers action to transform the plastic value chain
  • 1 June | Upscaling and redirecting finance, incentives and trade

Regarding the schedule, registration will open at 9.00 GMT (11.00 CEST) on 29 May (discussions are ongoing to open up registration on the 28 May in the evening, more information will follow). On 29 May in the evening, an informal technical briefing on chemicals, health and plastic pollution plastic is organized by Switzerland, Uruguay, Senegal and IPEN. The secretariat is also organizing a space for an informal technical session where those who have ideas and submissions may wish to informally gather and share ideas and concepts together. The plenary will meet in on 30 May, 31 May (morning and afternoon) and 1 June (morning only). The meeting will close at 13.00 GMT on 1 June, as some delegates will be heading to Stockholm+50. A field mission is organized on 1 June afternoon.

The key expected outcomes of the OEWG include:

  • Recommendation on Rules of Procedure for the INC, including guidelines on the composition of Bureau of the INC
  • Identification of candidates for the Bureau of the INC
  • Recommendations for timeline of the INC meetings and the sequencing of work for the INC process
  • Guidance to the secretariat in preparing for the first meeting of the INC, including on elements of the agenda, required documentation, and organization of the forum
  • Request to the secretariat to prepare draft elements and proposed options to structure the instrument, for consideration at INC-1.

Finally, UNEP is developing a spotlight publication on plastic pollution, the aim of which is to inform on the impacts of policy options along the life cycle. The publication is expected to be launched in the 3rd quarter of 2022. This report should help the negotiation process and inform governments, technical experts, and other actors along the way. As we move into these crucial negotiations, the OEWG will really be a landmark time for us to get started on this important process with a really tight deadline.

Update from the Host Vountry | Cheikh NDIAYE SYLLA, Director of Ministerial Cabinet for Environment and Sustainable Development, Senegal

The OEWG meeting will take place at the King Fahd Palace Hotel, which hosted the Ozone 7th COP and 17th MOP in 2005, and the POPs COP a few years later. It is a good venue with adequate equipment, enough meeting rooms, located in a very nice area. Senegal will facilitate the processing of visas for those who do not have an embassy or consulate in their country. For those unable to obtain visas prior to travel, please liaise with Mr. Amel Kane. Holders of UN passports do not require visa, while an invitation letter from the Secretariat is needed.

The airport is located 40km away from the city center; transportation will be made available to any selected hotel. Transportation from listed hotel to the venue will also be available every day. On the second day, after the opening ceremony, Senegal will be offering a cocktail in the Pullman Hotel (16 km away from the venue). On the last day, a field visit is organized to Thies to discover initiatives that collect, recycle and sell plastic; transportation and accommodation will be facilitated. The timetable and the organization of work provides an overview of the content of the meeting, but we remain open to any other agenda item that we will need to be considered.

Senegal is counting on large participation from governments, NGO, IGO, the private sector, and all actors who are involved in the negotiation. We need a very strong and committed the international convention, and thus Senegal is glad to welcome all in Dakar.

Perspectives from Stakeholders on the OEWG Meeting

Perspectives from a Member State | Valentina SIERRA, Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the United Nations in Geneva

UNEA-5 was a historic moment, as member states agreed to start a negotiation process to end plastic pollution and to agree on a legally-binding instrument on plastic pollution that addresses the full life cycle of plastic, including in the marine environment, by the end of 2024. It is an ambitious goal, but we will make it.

Main elements of the landmark resolution adopted at UNEA-5 include:

  • The recognition that plastic pollution is an urgent problem that negatively impacts the environment, and the socio-economic dimension of sustainable development.
  • The inclusion of the plastic pollution prevention aspect due to its relation to human and environmental health and wellbeing.
  • The combination of binding and voluntary approaches.
  • The call to strengthen the science-policy interface. This opens the door to the establishment of a scientific committee under the future agreement that will be discussed during the International Negotiation Committee. It is auspicial for such a scientific body to be established considering the successes of the Chemicals Review Committee (CRC) of the Rotterdam Convention, and the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) of the Stockholm Convention.
  • The urgent need to strengthen the global coordination, cooperation and governance to acting immediately on the long-term elimination of plastic pollution.
  • The call for enhanced international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation to produce sustainable alternatives and technologies.
  • The references to sustainable production and consumption of plastics, and to sound management of waste and circular economy.
  • The recognition and welcoming of the efforts made and the need for complementary actions and a coherent and coordinated long term global vision. This is particularly important as various international bodies like the BRS Conventions have been working for years on plastic issues. This resulted in the Basel Convention Plastic Waste Amendment in the last BRS COP in 2019, and in the establishment of the Plastic Waste Partnership. Therefore, it is key that the INC will consider, build on, and collaborate with bodies that are active on this front.
  • The consideration of the social aspect of the plastic pollution problem as the resolution acknowledges the significant contribution made by workers in informal and cooperative settings. Uruguay fully supports this aspect not only in the upcoming negotiations but also in other settings such as the International Labour Organization.
  • The involvement of the private sector and the initiation of a multi-stakeholder agenda.

Considering these strong and ambitious elements contained in the resolution, there is an evident need for capacity-building, technical and financial assistance to effectively implement it. It is also necessary to increase and spread knowledge through awareness racing, education and information exchange.

The OEWG is tasked to discuss rules of procedure, define the structure and timeline of the process, the formal meetings and the intersessional process for the next two years. Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues will begin on 29 May and continue during the OEWG with diverse thematic panels. Uruguay encourages all stakeholders to participate in these dialogues. Particularly, a strong engagement of the private sector is welcomed to achieve a deep understanding of how the plastic sector works, what the life cycle looks like, where the producers and consumers are located, and the geographic scope involved in the management of plastic waste.

Uruguay would also like to encourage unrestricted participation of NGOs, the BRS and the SAICM secretariats, academia, the scientific, health and labor sectors, as well as formal and informal workers and youth representatives. In this sense, Uruguay is organizing on 29 May jointly with IPEN, Switzerland and Senegal a technical briefing on health, chemical, plastic, and a non-toxic circular economy.

It must be stressed the importance of having a broad INC Bureau formed by 10 representatives, two from each region. Each region also has sub-regions and it is important to have equal representation. During the OEWG meetings, the structure of the agreement must be defined to consider how it could be implemented more quickly. No less attention should be given to the definition of how to address the hazardous substances contained in plastic, identifying the most hazardous ones and addressing them from the design stage and evaluating how to phase out those.

Other issues to be addressed are the improvement of recycling processes for a better and non-toxic circularity. This will allow preventing the release of toxic substances in the air, water and soil as well as reduce the exposure of workers and consumers. These meetings should also highlight the need to include the protection of human rights to a healthy environment in the agreement.

In that sense, national plans are fundamental as they are useful not only for national and local governments but also for the private sector, cooperatives, and diverse organizations as guidelines for how all these stakeholders should act. Nevertheless, we should not limit the implementation aspect to national plans alone, but rather adopt a broader approach inclusive of all the stakeholders involved. Finally, the promotion of education programs to raise awareness and achieve social changes regarding consumption, recycling and circular economy should not be missed.

Perspectives from Civil Society | David AZOULAY, Managing Attorney, CIEL Geneva Office & Director of Environmental Health Program, CIEL

It is satisfying to see that different stakeholders share similar expectations about the OEWG meeting as it usually sets us up for a good outcome and good process. These expected outcomes include:

  • Production of recommendations for the rules of procedure
  • Identification of possible candidates for the INC Bureau
  • Development of timeline recommendations and request to the Secretariat to prepare some draft elements and proposed options to structure the treaty and discussion

In the lead up to this OEWG, we have witnessed large engagement of various sectors of society. This represents a clear indication of the expectations the rest of the world lays on this treaty, thus it will be very important to sustain it in that respect. Civil society organizations have been organizing and coordinating for many years to support governments and UN secretariats to get to this process, therefore we expect civil society to continue providing inputs and be constructive participants in this process. Without a large, transparent, and active engagement from a cross-section of civil society, it will be hard to respect the ambition of the treaty.

In that respect, CIEL recently published a recommendation brief on how to ensure participation throughout the INC process, giving specific recommendations about how the rules of procedure should be drafted in that respect. Past negotiations like Minamata ones, or even the Escazú or Paris Agreements, provide best practices and international obligations for the Parties to these conventions to support and strengthen public participation in these processes, which can be used as examples for the INC.

Another key element in preparation for the INC negotiation is identifying clear objectives and targets, considering the evolving international agreements on climate, biodiversity and chemicals and for those objects and targets to be science-based. Despite the evident need for more research, data and information on the plastic life cycle, there is a consistent and multiplying output coming from the scientific community on what is needed to effectively end plastic pollution. It will be important to not only have a timeline of when and where the meetings will happen but also start thinking about the sequencing of the negotiations. More specifically, it will be extremely important to agree at an early stage on key definitions so the negotiations can proceed constructively without having to constantly question what the scope of the provisions discussed is.

The Secretariat should consider in agreement and in implementing the UNEA resolution, the scientific evidence of the harm caused by plastics on human health and biodiversity loss, the roles of chemicals and additives used in plastic and their impacts throughout the life cycle of plastics as well as, sustainable production and consumption in particular in concerning production caps and restrictions. This should guide further phase-out of toxic chemicals used for plastic production. This should address also environmental and human health risks from substitute materials such as bioplastic and plant-based materials, avoiding switching to other toxic materials.

To conclude, it is important to consider two elements that often are addressed at the end of negotiations, but which are instrumental to tackle head-on in these negotiations. First is the development of a dedicated financial mechanism that includes new and additional sustainable financial resources for the treaty implementation. Because money discussions are often difficult, these should not be addressed at the end of the negotiations. Secondly, compliance and implementation mechanism. We all want to avoid having an ambitious treaty on paper that is not implemented. We must ensure not only to develop a comprehensive ambitious treaty that adopts adequate provisions to end plastic pollution, but which can be implemented and complemented with strong compliance mechanisms and technical and financial resources.

Perspectives from the Private Sector | Delphine GARIN, Manager, Plastics & Packaging, World Business Council for Sustainable Development

WBCSD is a Geneva-based organization bringing together more than 200 multinational companies. WBCSD’s vision is to have by 2050 nine billion people living well within the limits of the planet, by working collectively with its members in circular projects on electronics, metrics, plastics and packaging. Therefore, the topic of plastic pollution is relevant for its work since it speaks to its key imperatives around climate, nature, and equity. WBCSD members are more than 200 companies across the plastic value chain, engaged in plastics either by producing, manufacturing, using or recycling it, and coming from different sectors. The WBCSD network of partners is spread around 70 countries, allowing to have also local perspectives.

WBCSD has already set up a working group inclusive of all the companies that are impacted and interested in the upcoming UN agreement on plastic pollution, with the aim to achieve a high mobilization from the business sector. The private sector’s perspective cannot be reduced to WBCSD, therefore the organization is collaborating with others, like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation or WWF, which excellently brought the business voices in their campaign for the future UN treaty.

From the business perspective, three main elements can be identified:

  1. Cross value chain dialogues along the INC process. A science-based and science-led process to end plastic pollution is essential. Since the resolution on plastic pollution promotes sustainable consumption and production of plastic and embraces a circular economy approach, interventions upstream and downstream are necessary, and businesses will be key for implementation. WBCSD looks forward to bringing its expertise and perspectives to those discussions, fostering collaboration across the plastic value chain. WBCSD is aware that for brands to increase recycled content in their products, investment in waste management infrastructure is necessary. This will allow touching various elements of the plastic value chain such as product design and plastic waste management. Therefore, a combination of investments and policies will play a key role in enabling a circular economy, while the business world can help provide insights into market realities, new business models that must be created, investments needed and how to make the value chains ready. In this sense, a combined approach to what makes sense at the global level and what makes sense at more national levels is fundamental. WBCSD will be happy to provide a platform for businesses and policymakers to test the proposed measures and analyse data gaps, and looks forward to joining the multi-stakeholder action agenda and providing a space for discussion with our members across the plastic value chain.
  2. A central part of the negotiation will be dedicated to the standardization of metrics, reporting and disclosure for countries. This represents a good opportunity to align countries and corporates on metrics and methodologies that are necessary to achieve the goals, so business progress is recognized and measured. WBCSD’s Sustainable Plastic & Packaging Value Chains Project aims to provide this input to the negotiations. The project currently focuses on a landscape analysis of existing metrics and methodologies used by businesses to report on plastic usage and fate to identify the gaps and opportunities for convergence. Following consultations, these documents will be shared with a wider public, but the idea is to contribute to the negotiations also in this area while collaborating with organizations that have conducted similar work.
  3. Considering the resolution’s focus on sustainable production and consumption of plastic and the circular economy approach, WBCSD recently published a report entitled “SPHERE: the packaging sustainability framework”. It aims to support companies in their packaging decisions with metrics, allowing them to assess the environmental impact of packaging. This work undertakes a holistic approach, looking at production and end of life of packaging to address the full life cycle of plastics and reconcile circularity with sustainability.

Q & A

Formalities For Entry Into Senegal

All participants are responsible to check if they require a visa to enter Senegal here: www.visasenegal.sn.  All foreign citizens should hold a valid passport with 6 months of validity to enter Senegal. Nationals of countries where Senegal has no Diplomatic or Consular Representation, will be granted visas free of charge on arrival at the Blaise Diagne International Airport (AIBD). Participants will need to present the invitation letter and the letter of confirmation of registration to the airline check-in desk at the airport of departure. Delegates from countries where Senegal has a Diplomatic or Consular Mission are required to apply for visas before their arrival in Dakar, by presenting the letter of invitation or confirmation of their registration to facilitate the visa process. The government of Senegal is able to provide a support letter upon request. For those unable to obtain visas prior to travel, please liaise with Mr. Amel Kane to facilitate visas upon arrival. Holders of UN passports do not require a visa, while an invitation letter from the secretariat is needed.

Q: Will plastic credits as a financing mechanism be discussed in Dakar? The market is still highly unregulated and would benefit from global guidance and direction.

David Azoulay: The short answer is no, as discussions in Dakar will not address the substance. The meetings in Dakar will set up the structure for the negotiations, but it may touch on the topic of how we frame the financing discussion. Plastic credits will likely be part of the financing discussion over the next two years in the INC.

Q: How can people registered for side events receive links to attend?

Brenda Koekkoek: The registration deadline has closed but for the multi-stakeholder dialogues public access to the link for the multi-stakeholder dialogues will be published on the website. People who have registered will receive a communication to join the dialogues from the link on the website.

Closing Remarks

Damaris CARNAL, Switzerland’s Focal Point for the UN Environment Programme

Today’s event is a demonstration that the spirit of UNEA is enthusiastically guiding this next phase and pushing us to carry on the hard work ahead. At this stage, it is important to cheer the achievements done for the organization of the OEWG meeting as time pressure was indeed high. A few key takeaways from today should be noted:

  1. We need to set up a good process to establish an enabling environment for successful negotiations. This entails having an efficient and competent secretariat, bureau, and presidency to carry on the massive substantive work ahead. It is important to ensure that rules of procedure will provide help rather than complicate the process. As the process is very ambitious and the timeline challenging, we must bear in mind that speed should in no way be at the cost of ambition. The priority is to have a treaty that makes a difference. Having concluded by 2024 with an empty shell is senseless. As this meeting was arranged less than three months after the closure of UNEA-5.2, the approach to the timeline design must embrace the need for preparation, not only by the secretariat but also by member states and stakeholders. Intersessional work will be pivotal for having a meaningful session of negotiation; therefore the organization and structure of work need to be central throughout these sessions. Again, it is important to have at the table the right expertise at the right time, as different sorts of inputs might be needed at different moments. In this way, the meetings in Dakar will also provide substantive guidance.
  2. It is necessary to expand and deepen the common knowledge on plastic. There is a common perception of being overwhelmed by the number of publications, as non-experts in the field cannot read and process everything this plethora of information. Therefore, I call upon experts to support this mainstreaming process by rephrasing it in a way that will be useful for negotiators. Everyone should expand their knowledge and understanding of plastics, as into being aware of what plastic is harmful to human and environmental health. Still, this must be grounded in science in order to avoid clashing opinions during negotiations.
  3. The negotiations will not always be easy but we need to remember why we decided to go for a legally binding instrument. Approaches so far were too fragmented and voluntary approaches were leading nowhere. It is highly significant to have the private sector claiming they need more coherence, harmonization, and clear global rules. This ambition should be combined with continued pressure on governments. Switzerland will be supportive and engaged in this process and it will profit from Geneva’s broad expertise.

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In addition to the live WebEx and social media transmissions, the video of the event is available on this webpage.

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