Initial UN plastic treaty talks end with disagreement on how to progress

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Punto del Este in Uruguay where the first set of negotiations took place for a treaty on plastic pollution

Plans to develop a global treaty on plastic pollution had a rocky start after nations could not agree on the initial details.

At the first round of negotiations in Uruguay as part of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) that is co-ordinated by the United Nations, 160 countries were represented in the first of five planned sessions that will develop the treaty by 2024.

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While it was agreed that there should be a treaty on ending plastic pollution, a split emerged on how to get there.

A coalition, known as the ‘High Ambition Coalition’ that contains 40 countries including EU members, Switzerland and others wants mandatory global measures including curbing the production of plastics.

But the United States, Saudi Arabia and others wants individual nations to make their own pledges.

In its position statement, Switzerland outlined that: “Without a common international regulatory framework, we will not be able to address the global and increasing challenge of plastic pollution.”

But the United States said it would prefer the treaty to resemble the Paris climate agreement that allows countries to set their own greenhouse gas reduction goals and action plans.

Industry and environmental representatives were also split at the event with Greenpeace agreeing that plastic production needed to be curbed or it could triple by 2050.

But US Plastics Industry Association president and chief executive Matt Seaholm said: “At the end of the day, we hope the committee comes to the same conclusion we do, which is that increasing recycling offers the best solution to reducing plastic waste.”

The United Nations will now begin organising the second round of talks, with the EU calling for them to be held no later than April 2023.