Paris, France – Over 150 civil society groups and scientists from around the world, including ethologist, anthropologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace Dr. Jane Goodall, have signed on to an open letter urging the UN to act now – to prevent the fossil fuel industry from undermining negotiations to agree to an effective Global Plastics Treaty. The letter comes as delegates prepare for the second round of Global Plastics Treaty negotiations (INC2) happening in Paris, France on May 29 to June 2, 2023.
Since the inception of the treaty, which aims for nations to commit to a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution by 2024, the fossil fuel industry has been actively lobbying to weaken it both directly and via industry groups such as the Association to End Plastic Waste and American Chemistry Council (ACC). Previously leaked documents revealed that undermining proposals to control runaway plastic production are a focus for ACC lobbying.
This is in direct conflict with the views of scientists and civil society groups from around the world who agree that it is essential that the UN Plastics Treaty agrees a roadmap for dramatically reducing plastic production and ending use of toxic chemicals.
Louise Edge, Global Plastics Campaigner for Greenpeace UK said: “The Global Plastics Treaty is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to solve the plastics crisis. Whether it succeeds or fails depends on whether governments are bold enough to ensure that the treaty delivers what the science says is needed – a cap and phase down of plastic production.
“This essential measure will be fiercely resisted by the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries that profit from plastic. With this letter we are urging the UN to listen to the millions of people around the world who want an end to plastic pollution, rather than the interests of the oil and gas lobby.”
Despite increasing concerns about the impact of plastic pollution on people’s health as well as the environment, plastic production has continued to increase year on year. Giant fossil fuel and petrochemical companies like ExxonMobil, Dow, Shell and others are reportedly investing heavily in building yet more production capacity and petrochemical facilities. According to industry estimates, plastic production could double within the next 10-15 years, and triple by 2050.
Delphine Lévi Alvarès, #BreakFreeFromPlastic Global Petrochemicals Campaign Coordinator said: “The science is clear: we will never end plastic pollution without cutting plastic production. The fossil fuel industry is attempting to weaken the outcomes of the plastic treaty negotiations precisely because plastics and other petrochemicals serve as a lifeline for their declining industry. We cannot allow the same ‘deny, distract, and delay’ tactics they have used in climate negotiations to enter into the plastics negotiations.
Weakening ambition will have dramatic impacts on the most vulnerable communities living on the frontline of the plastics crisis. Workers, Indigenous Peoples, frontline communities, and rights holders from the Global South are not only the most impacted by plastic pollution, but they also are the ones holding the expertise to design the just transition needed to ensure a future free from plastic pollution. Their perspectives should be front and center in these negotiations —not the voices of those protecting the fossil fuel industry’s profits.”
The letter to UNEP Executive Director Andersen and Executive Secretary of the INC Secretariat Mathur-Filipp calls on UNEP to:
- Recognise that the public interest in addressing plastic pollution is not compatible with the private interests of the fossil fuel and petrochemical companies that produce plastic.
- Support the adoption of a strong conflict of interest policy to ensure that fossil fuel and petrochemical companies are not allowed to undermine the global response to plastic pollution.
- Protect official spaces at and around INCs from fossil fuel and petrochemical industry influence, by revoking fossil fuel and petrochemical industry sponsorship and participation in official spaces, following a precedent set by the UK government at COP26.
- Prioritise giving seats at the UN table to Indigenous Peoples and impacted communities who live on the frontlines of plastic pollution – such as production sites, plastic choked rivers and seas and toxic waste dumps – and to the independent scientists studying the impacts plastic pollution is having on our planet and our health.
Note: This post was edited on 10 October 2023 to add additional signers
Angelica Carballo Pago, Global Plastics Campaign Media Lead, Greenpeace USA, [email protected], +639171124492