WWF calls for more urgency after latest plastics treaty talks

May, 09 2024

With over 15 million tonnes of plastics leaking into the ocean just since the start of the negotiations, WWF warns that progress on the treaty still lags behind the scale and urgency needed to end plastic pollution.
To match the scale of this crisis, countries must deliver a strong global treaty if we are to end plastic pollution, but the latest talks still yielded no clarity on the treaty’s biggest fault line - whether the treaty will have common global rules or voluntary ones based on national plans.

The latest talks on the global treaty to end plastic pollution yielded some success in terms of countries proposing and progressing on certain key measures to address the crisis but countries left undecided the treaty’s biggest fault line - whether the treaty will have the needed common global rules or voluntary ones based on national plans. 

In the fourth round of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) meetings on April 23 to 29 in Ottawa, Canada, there was further development of rules to prohibit problematic and avoidable plastic products, but left open whether the treaty will include measures to reduce production and consumption of plastics. 
Negotiations moved at too slow a pace for important decisions to be progressed at a speed that can match the magnitude of the plastic pollution that currently engulfs our planet - over 15 million tonnes of plastic have leaked into the ocean just since the start of the negotiations.
“Negotiators need to recognise that plastic pollution is an accelerating global crisis that cannot be solved with fragmented national approaches,” says Eirik Lindebjerg, Global Plastics Policy Lead, WWF International. “Governments must now employ all possible means to step up progress between the meetings on measures that will have the biggest impact on addressing plastic pollution across plastic’s full lifecycle - in particular, global bans on high-risk products and chemicals, global product design requirements and a robust financial package to secure a just transition.”

With significant work still needed before negotiators head back into the final meeting - to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea this November - WWF calls on all governments to explore every effort to advance progress between sessions. Formal intersessional work, country-led technical meetings, ministerial conferences and informal consultations will all be necessary to ensure negotiators come to the final meeting in Busan prepared to negotiate and finalize the treaty.

While major disagreements on the strength of measures remain, increased alignment was seen throughout the negotiations in key areas, including binding global bans and phase outs of high-risk products and chemicals, development of mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility schemes, common product design requirements and a financial package to ensure implementation. The mission is now to translate this majority alignment into clear texts that provide for how the treaty can be implemented. 

"This week showed that the majority of countries want a strong treaty with binding global rules on harmful and avoidable plastic and common product design requirements,” adds Lindebjerg. “With an unprecedented opportunity in front of them, now is the time for world leaders to show their political will and deliver a treaty strong enough to outpace the speed in which the global plastic pollution crisis is accelerating.”

A global ban

Prior to the talks, an Institut Public de Sondage d'Opinion Secteur (Ipsos) poll commissioned by the WWF and the Plastic Free Foundation found that 85% of people worldwide believe there should be a global ban on single-use plastics included in the treaty. 

But what would this mean for the Philippines? WWF-Philippines No Plastics in Nature Lead Julius Guirjen says a global ban on SUPs could have significant implications for the Philippines.

“Various scenarios may emerge, including broader adoption of alternative materials, potential economic upheavals, increased recycling, shifts in consumer behavior, enforcement hurdles and, ultimately, a reduction in plastic pollution leading to environmental advantages l such as improved water quality, and health of our marine ecosystems,” he says.

Economically, this could entail shifts in manufacturing towards more sustainable options, yet it could also trigger disruptions in supply chains and job displacements in industries heavily reliant on SUPs, such as food packaging and retail. Consumers would need to change their consumption patterns, opting for reusable bags and containers, among other environmentally conscious choices, to rely less on SUPs. 

To implement this ban, Guirjen says there should be a phased approach affording businesses, industries, and communities time to adjust to the changes. This involves delineating timelines and objectives while providing support and incentives for compliance. Support mechanisms especially for affected communities may come as vocational training, financial aid, and alternative livelihood programs. 

For successful implementation, the government would need to engage a broad spectrum of stakeholders covering government agencies, businesses, civil society organizations, and affected communities in the planning and implementation process, ensuring diverse perspectives are considered and addressed. 

The Philippines should also collaborate with other countries and international entities to synchronize efforts, share best practices, and mobilize resources to effectively address plastic pollution. 

“The principle of a just transition should also apply in the implementation of a ban on single-use plastic. The approach needs to be holistic and inclusive, and progress should be widely communicated so that the required behavior change across different sectors of society can be better synchronized. We are all united in the goal to reduce plastic pollution and we want this to succeed.   ” says Guirjen. 

Filipinos generate about 2.15 million metric tonnes of plastic waste annually, of which 62% are low-value single-use plastics such as sachets as found in a WWF-Philippines study. Only 9% of plastics Filipinos use are recycled while 35% leak into the open environment. 

WWF’s No Plastic in Nature Initiative works across the life cycle of plastic to:
  • reduce the amount of new plastic produced
  • increase the reuse of plastic already in circulation
  • eliminate leakage of plastic into nature