The 2-Minute Read: There’s No Time To Wait
"The 2-Minute Read" is a series where we discuss new ideas or counterintuitive thoughts on today's plastic pollution crisis. By no means is it comprehensive coverage of the issues, instead it serves to stir up new ideas and constructive conversation.
The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) made “slower than expected” progress finding common ground for the Global Plastics Treaty during INC-3. Perhaps pessimistic, but, we’re not all that surprised.
SO WHAT HAPPENED AT INC-3?
As the dust settles, it appears countries reliant on their petrochemical industries and exports in concert with their lobbyists have thwarted much of the momentum experienced in previous meetings of the INC. For context, parties left INC-2 (in Paris) optimistic at the progress and the resulting Zero Draft text. The Zero Draft ultimately outlined provisions that addressed the full life-cycle of plastics. Most notably, the Zero Draft had two provisions that could potentially curb or cap production while also barring specific polymers and chemicals. At INC-3 (in Nairobi) a flurry of proposed texts were presented, primarily introduced by plastic and petrochemical lobbyists, eliminating the two prominent provisions. Distracted by this, the result of INC-3 was an erosion of optimism around the speed and quality of the negotiations.
Call us pessimistic, or perhaps realists, but it seems like a bit of a fantasy to have expected smooth progress. The existing inertia to maintain the status quo in the plastics industry is, to put it frankly, overwhelming. In many ways, when you ignore environmental impacts, plastics have built a perfect business. Convenience, price, and technical properties are undeniable and as of 2022 the petrochemical industry represented over half a trillion dollars in market value. 143 industry lobbyists were registered at INC-3 so it’s no wonder they were able to cloud the previously experienced consensus.
“We were disappointed to see a proliferation of alternative text proposals during this round of negotiations, including calls for the deletion of key provisions related to primary plastic polymers, identification of chemicals and polymers of concern, as well as problematic and avoidable plastic products. The lack of agreement on any intersessional work may cause further delays to the negotiation process, which we cannot afford with the limited time left. ”
While we remain hopeful for the continued negotiations, the plastic crisis is here today and we’re of the mindset that there’s no better time for action than now.
NO TIME TO WAIT
It’s clear, many organizations and companies have acknowledged the plastic crisis but are simultaneously waiting on clarity of government regulations before enacting any meaningful changes. Meanwhile, the pace of the plastic crisis is only accelerating.
In this face of the daunting statistics, it’s time to put aside fears and hesitations about plastic action and simply “start somewhere”. Companies don't need to wait for governments to establish internal expectations for their teams, complete with measurable goals and pathways toward action. (learn more about your organization’s readiness)
To take action before having clarity on red-tape regulations is to know that imperfection is better than no progress at all. Prioritizing transparency and accountability is the antidote to any concerns over “getting it wrong” or fear of greenwashing accusations and selecting the right partners for this journey is imperative in validating your work and providing the necessary guidance to accurately communicate your initiatives. Be on the right side of history.