What’s happening with global plastic treaty talks?

Global leaders are in Canada’s capital for the fourth round of negotiations towards what would become the first global treaty on soaring plastic pollution. The hoped-for treaty, due to be agreed to by the end of the year, could be the most significant deal relating to climate-warming emissions and environmental protection since the 2015 Paris Agreement. 

Global leaders are in Canada’s capital for talks on drafting a first-ever treaty to rein in soaring plastic pollution.

It’s meant to address plastics through their entire lifecycle – from when they are produced to how they are used and disposed of.

Here’s what you need to know.

The world’s nations agreed to develop a legally binding agreement to address the plastic pollution crisis at the U.N. Environmental Assembly in 2022.

The talks in Ottawa are the fourth of five rounds of negotiations, with the final round set for December.

If agreed to it could be the most significant environmental deal since the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Plastic waste has become a global menace, polluting landscapes and waterways.

And the plastic industry now accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions, which could grow to 20% by 2050 if current trends continue.

That’s according to a report from the U.S. federal Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Most virgin plastic is derived from petroleum.

And unless limits are set, plastic production is on track to triple by 2060.

Countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and China – known collectively as the group of Like-Minded Countries – have opposed mentioning production limits.

Meanwhile, the 60-nation High-Ambition Coalition – which includes EU countries, island nations, Japan and the UAE – wants to end plastic pollution by 2040.

The coalition has called for common, legally binding provisions to restrain and reduce production and consumption to sustainable levels.

They’re also proposing measures such as phasing out “problematic” single-use plastics.

The U.S. says it also wants to end plastic pollution by 2040 but wants countries to set their own plans for doing so.

Trade group Global Partners for Plastics Circularity represents major petrochemical producers.

They argue production caps would lead to higher prices for consumers and say the treaty should address plastics only after they are made.

The Business Coalition for a Plastics Treaty represents more than 200 consumer-facing companies including PepsiCo and Walmart.

Unlike the petrochemical industry, they support a treaty that includes production caps, according to a statement ahead of the Ottawa talks.

During the three previous rounds of talks, countries became divided.

At talks in Nairobi in November, the draft treaty ballooned from 30 pages to 70 as some countries insisted on including their objections to more ambitious measures.

Countries are now under pressure to find common ground before the final negotiations in Busan, South Korea in December.