Everybody wants to RULE the [plastics] world

Discussions from the second day of the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-2) on a potential treaty to end plastic pollution

Authors: Emily Cowan and Rachel Tiller 

On May 30th, 2023, the negotiations are still ongoing for the potential global treaty to end plastic pollution. On this second day at the UNESCO building in Paris – similar to the first day, plastics are on everyone's minds but nobody's tongues in the negotiation room. A major divergence among delegations has been expressed clearly throughout the day like yesterday. Rule 38 is on everyone's mind. This rule is on the matter of once negotiations begin that the goal should be to obtain a consensus and if that cannot happen with the full commitment of all member states - a 2/3rds majority vote of those present and voting can instead help to move negotiations forward. Rule 38 from the draft rules of procedure has been at the forefront of the last two days of discussion.  Why? Because this was not resolved during INC1 – where it had also been an issue of contention. 


Today the intended plan from the Chair of the INC was to move forward towards establishing two contact groups whose goal would be to work on substantive matters on what the future plastics treaty could contain. This would start from the Potential Options paper developed by the United Nations Environmental Assembly in the lead-up to INC2. It includes possible core obligations of the future treaty that could be discussed during INC2 such as phasing out, banning, and designing for circularity, as well as means of implantation such as financial assistance, capacity building, and National Action Plans.  


This didn’t happen though. After the morning session, there was still no conclusion on the adoption of the Rules of Procedure, so an open ending consultation took place to discuss both Rules 37 and 38. This consultation was co-facilitated by delegates from Japan and Uruguay, and they met for two hours during lunch. For a moment, though, the room almost thought there had been a plot twist when Micronesia asked if the Chair was considering using precisely rule 38 as a solution to resolve the issue of not reaching consensus on it by calling for a vote – something the Chair chose not to answer. Even before starting the informal consultation though, multiple member states, including India, China, and Saudi Arabia were calling for points of clarifications on what would happen after the conclusion of these informal discussions.