From 29 May to 2 June 2023, representatives from 169 nations convened in Paris for the second round of talks to develop an international treaty to end plastic pollution. It has been described as a week of highs and lows. In the words of Dr Tiwonge Gawa, activist and Tearfund campaigner from Malawi, change is coming, but it will not come easily.
Before the talks began, last minute restrictions were put in place that limited the participation of important voices: particularly those from the global south, including waste pickers who play a vital role in the informal waste management system. Proceedings then got off to a slow start, getting stuck in matters of how decisions would be made and agreed upon.
However, the talks eventually progressed and discussions were focused on two key areas: what would be included in the treaty and how it would be implemented.
Tearfund was there, representing the voices of more than 10,000 Christians from around the world - people like you - who have joined our Rubbish Campaign and want to see an end to plastic pollution and the impact it is having on people living in poverty.
Our team was able to have direct conversations with country delegations to highlight the key calls of our campaign. We were also able to play a critical role in supporting a side event led by the International Alliance of Waste Pickers, pushing for justice to be at the heart of the treaty. As a result of this event, we’ve seen growing support expressed by country delegations for including a just transition, especially for waste pickers, as a core part of this treaty. This is fantastic news, a real breakthrough and a reason to give thanks.
It was encouraging to see Australia's Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, in Paris on day 1 of negotiations and speaking to the importance and urgency of this treaty. Australia played an important role at INC 2, both as a member of the High Ambition Coalition and as co-facilitators of the discussions on how the treaty would be implemented.
The next step will be the preparation of a zero draft for consideration at the third round of talks in November. This draft will give us a real sense of the direction and potential impact of the treaty.
One key decision that will need to be addressed is the nature of the treaty itself. Should it rely on global obligations, with every country required to meet international standards? Or should it adopt nationally determined measures? Differing views exist, with some advocating for a bottom-up approach and others, including many from the global south, favouring robust global commitments applicable to all nations.
In Malawi, we see burning and dumping of plastic waste everyday, harming people’s health and increasing the risk of flooding. These negotiations have shown that change is coming, but it will not come easily. There are some who profit from this plastic crisis and want to keep ambition as low as possible. But citizens around the world are demanding change, and many governments are listening, recognising that justice for those most affected must be a core part of this treaty.
As we move on from this round of talks and lead into the next, we will continue to lobby our national delegation about the role Australia can play. Your voice of support helps us as we do this. There have been various attempts by those who profit from plastic production to undermine the progress of talks. This highlights the importance of our advocacy to ensure that the voices of people who are on the frontline of the world’s plastic pollution crisis are being heard.
Please join us in prayer, that God's justice would prevail and that the treaty would bring real change to the lives of people living in poverty. Pray for our leaders and all those involved in the negotiation process, that they may be guided by God’s wisdom, justice, and compassion.
And take action today and share this important work with your church and community.