What is the progress on the Global Plastic Treaty and how it could impact subnational governments

2023 has been a year of tremendous progress for Circular Development, but we have a lot more work that needs to be accelerated as 2030 is not far away. At the same time, we need to ensure that all gains made towards making our cities, provinces, and states, circular and sustainable are not lost.

ICLEI’s Circular Development team is well aware of the urgency needed to accelerate our efforts. Through detailed analyses, we have identified critical leverage points that can propel circular actions at a local government level.

One initiative in this regard is the global effort to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, commonly known as the “Global Plastics Treaty”, by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) on Plastic Pollution. The INC began its work in the second half of 2022, holding regular sessions and aiming to complete its work by the end of 2024. This instrument is intended to include marine, land, and water plastic pollution, promote sustainable production and consumption of plastics, and rely on several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As we have seen with the Paris Agreement and other Multilateral Environmental Agreements, the perspectives of local governments must be taken into account while national governments are negotiating, and those considerations should be reflected into final agreements and treaties.

Global initiatives, local impacts

While these agreements are international, they greatly influence national positions, laws, and strategies, which have a direct impact on local governments.

Cities already bear the brunt of plastic pollution, as the majority of plastic consumption and subsequent pollution occurs within urban areas. This not only makes city governments among the first to feel its impact, but it also complicates their plans to reduce emissions.

Moreover, local administrations often shoulder the burden of national decisions, especially when negative outcomes arise. Any national agreements on waste, for instance, will affect cities directly, given their ownership and management of infrastructure for waste collection, including plastics waste. Closing the tap on plastics will inevitably impact various industries and communities, posing numerous challenges locally.

In 2023, ICLEI co-hosted the Paris International Forum to end plastic pollution in cities. Head Table from left to right: Jean-Baptiste Buffet, Head of Advocacy, UCLG; Manuel de Araújo, Mayor of Quelimane, Mozambique; Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, Executive Secretary, INC Secretariat on Plastic Pollution; Kobie Brand, ICLEI Deputy Secretary General; Minna Arve, Mayor of Turku, Finland, and ICLEI Circular Development Portfolio Holder; Lila Durix, Head of mission “Disposal of single-use plastics”, City of Paris, France.


Bringing subnational voices to the table

Throughout 2023, ICLEI has been actively involved in the Plastics Treaty, particularly concerning cities and subnational governments. In collaboration with UNEP and other partners, ICLEI hosted the “Paris International Forum to end plastic pollution in cities” ahead of the second round of negotiations (INC-2) held in Paris in May and June 2023. The forum aimed to bring together mayors from various continents, scientists, NGOs, intergovernmental organizations, and philanthropies dedicated to combating plastic pollution, facilitating exchanges on minimizing its impact.

Mayors also had the opportunity to engage directly with the secretariat of the INC for the Global Plastics Treaty. During INC-2, the INC secretariat organized 12 dedicated side events, with participation strictly by application. ICLEI, through the Japanese government, led a session titled “Enabling change at Local, National and Regional levels.”

While less publicly visible, ICLEI engaged in INC-3 focusing on lobbying and amplifying key points to national negotiating teams. We had the opportunity to deliver an address during the opening session of INC-3, and most notably, the revised zero draft of the treaty now includes references to ‘subnational’ and ‘local’, marking a significant advancement for advocacy efforts.

INC-4 will take place in Canada in April 2024, and the final planned meeting, INC-5, is set to take place later in the year in the Republic of Korea.

If you represent a city or sub-national government and are interested in joining our working group, fill out this form to become part of our cities contact group, and encourage relevant officials and political leaders to sign up for the ICLEI Circulars Newsletters to ensure that all relevant information is received by your city.

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