Negotiations for global plastics treaty face uphill task, says CSE on eve of fourth round of talks

  • Fourth meeting of the UNEA’s Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to be held in Canada from April 23 
  • CSE releases comprehensive assessment of all the country positions 
  • Oil, gas and plastic producing nations refuse to curtail production, saying this is a plastic waste management problem; but CSE finds that the whole life-cycle of plastic, from production to disposal, is to blame 

Download CSE’s latest study of country positions  click here 

Find the proceedings of CSE’s webinar on the subject click here 

A CSE team will be reporting from the ground at INC-4. To connect with it, please reach out to:, 9768902012 (whatsapp) 

New Delhi, India, April 17, 2024: Just two years ago, the world had witnessed a turning point in the fight against plastic pollution, with the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) passing a resolution to “end plastic pollution”. An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) was set up and tasked to develop a legally binding instrument – a global treaty -- to govern plastic production and use across all nations. 

After three rounds of extensive discussions and negotiations, and the fourth round about to kick off on April 23 in Canada, the world seems to be nowhere near an agreement on how to deal with the plastic waste menace, says a new assessment by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released here today. 

Says Atin Biswas, director of CSE’s solid waste management programme: “Similar to the challenges faced in global climate change negotiations, the path to an international plastics treaty is fraught with complexities. With the crucial fourth round of negotiations (INC-4) set to commence next week in Ottawa, Canada, anxiety levels are rising: will the world see a global plastics treaty in 2024 to end plastic pollution?” 

CSE, which has been closely monitoring the INC process since its inception, released its latest assessment of country positions, which offers a nuanced view of the global politics of plastics. With their in-depth knowledge of the INC negotiations, CSE’s research teams have analysed the submissions made by the member states in the INC-3, the third round of talks which has resulted in a revised zero draft. 

According to Siddharth Ghanshyam Singh, programme manager, solid waste management unit, CSE: “Our analysis shows that almost all the oil, gas and plastic producing nations are not keen to reduce production of primary/virgin plastics – in fact, a handful of them are strident on making this treaty all about management of plastic waste, instead of that of controlling production. It is evident that some member states are weakening the provisions of the draft to protect their economic interests; public health is not a priority for them.” 

Adds Singh: “We have always been told that plastics are a waste management challenge and we can recycle our way out of the plastic crisis. The truth, however, is plastics pollute at every stage of their life cycle -- from production and use to disposal. They affect air quality, causing respiratory and skin disorders in workers and population residing near production facilities; the chemicals that are used in the production of polymers have been proven to be carcinogenic and disrupt endocrine balance.” 

Plastic production has doubled in the last 20 years. The UNEP says up to 99 per cent of plastics are made from polymers derived from non-renewable hydrocarbons (crude oil and natural gas). Production, use, distribution and disposal are major sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; in 2019, they contributed about 3.4 per cent of the global total. Plastic production alone accounted for 90 per cent of these emissions. 

Biswas says: “The geopolitics that we have observed in the floors of the three rounds of intergovernmental negotiating committee meetings has raised many critical questions regarding the possibility of an ambitious global plastic treaty emerging as the outcome. Positions taken by countries with high fossil fuel reserve or strong ecosystem of petrochemical industries across the world is again the traditional debate between environment and economy. Unless the global plastic treaty is addressing the full life-cycle of plastics with stringent measures, it would be difficult to deal with the problem, considering the current scale of production and consumption.” 

India, a nation struggling with its own plastic waste crisis, plays a pivotal role in these negotiations. It has already notified a ban on 19 single-use plastic items and is also implementing an EPR (extended producer responsibility) policy for plastic packaging. 

Adds Biswas: “The success of the global treaty hinges on international collaboration. INC-4 presents a crucial opportunity for nations to bridge differences, forge common ground, and collectively chart a course towards a future free of plastic pollution. The coming days in Ottawa will tell us whether the world is serious about its commitment towards tackling this environmental challenge.”

For more on our work on the plastic problem, please contact Sukanya Nair of The CSE Media Resource Centre:, 8816818864