Plastic treaty talks behind schedule amid impasse over production limits

By Valerie Volcovici

- With the world still divided over how ambitious its first plastics treaty should be, countries are considering launching a series of smaller meetings before a hoped-for agreement in December.

Countries still need to decide on whether the treaty should call for reducing the amount of plastics produced.

During the last week of negotiations in Canada's capital, Ottawa, more than 60 countries demanded the treaty include production caps.

The European Union along with Rwanda, Peru, Norway, Ghana, and other governments calling themselves the High-Ambition Coalition said negotiators should spend the next few months studying whether some types of plastics can be reduced.

With plastic production on track to triple by 2050, such levels "are unsustainable and far exceed our recycling and waste management capacities," said Rwanda chief negotiator Juliet Kabera.

Rwanda and Peru have proposed establishing baseline levels for the amount of plastic needed and used in each country to prevent overproduction.

Such efforts to target production are facing staunch opposition from some petrochemical-producing countries like Saudi Arabia and China. They have argued that the time before the final summit in Busan, Korea, would be better spent focused on less fractious topics such as managing plastic waste.

China's lead negotiator in Ottawa, Yang Xiaoling, said countries should be "focused on non-contentious subjects," such as redesigning plastic products so that they use less plastic or are more easily recyclable.

On the last day of talks in Ottawa on Monday, countries split into working groups to focus on resolving details of the hoped-for treaty, including how the work should be financed.

In announcing the plan for working groups to continue negotiating in coming months, the chair of the talks, Luis Vayas Valdivieso of Ecuador, did not say whether production limits would continue to be in discussion.

No country has objected to the plan for intersessional working groups, unlike during the November negotiations in Nairobi when Saudi Arabia blocked work on the draft treaty outside of the official summits.

Thousands of people registered to attend the Ottawa talks, including hundreds of lobbyists representing the fossil fuel and chemical industries.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Katy Daigle)


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