Global plastic treaty talks face uncertainty amid opposition from oil and gas producers


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The fourth round of negotiations for the “Global plastic treaty” took place on Apr. 23 in Ottawa, Canada, where international representatives gathered to discuss on how to halt plastic pollution. However, with opposition from major oil and gas countries, reaching a consensus on the draft remains uncertain.

At the 2022 United Nations Environmental Assembly, countries have pledged to formulate a legally binding agreement by the end of 2024. The goal is to historically end single-use plastics, but disagreements persist after three rounds of meetings.

Many major plastic and petrochemical-producing countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and China, oppose measures like setting production limits, refusing to specify elimination timelines, and resisting chemical disclosure regulations. On the other hand, the European Union and island nations like Japan are pushing to end plastic pollution by 2040.

As fossil fuels are gradually phased out, oil and gas companies have viewed the plastic industry as a lifeboat. Consequently, they oppose setting production limits and instead hope the treaty will focus on how to facilitate the recycling and reuse of plastic products, as well as the development of technologies to convert plastic into fuel.

"It’s a crucial moment of this process," Andres Gomez Carrion, chair of the negotiations said. "One of the biggest challenges is to define where the plastics lifecycle starts and define what sustainable production and consumption is."

A report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the United States indicates that global plastic production continues to rise. Without significant changes, it is projected that the carbon emissions from plastic products will increase from the current 5% to 20% by 2050.

Around 3,500 individuals will attend this round of negotiations, marking the largest gathering to date. If a consensus is still not reached, the final negotiations will take place in Busan, South Korea at the end of November.

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