NAIROBI, Kenya -- Efforts to create a landmark treaty to end global plastic pollution were advancing Monday in Nairobi as most of the world's nations, plus petrochemical companies, environmentalists and others affected by the pollution, gathered to discuss draft language for the first time.
It is the third gathering in a compressed, five-meeting schedule intended to complete negotiations by the end of next year.
The power dynamics and positions of different delegations became clear in the first two rounds of talks in Paris and Punta del Este, Uruguay. Plastic is largely made from crude oil and natural gas, giving oil-producing countries and companies a large stake in any treaty.
Global negotiators last met in Paris in June and agreed to produce initial treaty text before reconvening in Nairobi. The draft was published in early September. The U.N. Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution is charged with developing the first international, legally binding treaty on plastic pollution on land and at sea.
Kenya is a global leader in fighting plastic pollution, and in 2017, the country banned the manufacture, sale and use of single-use plastic bags. Kenya is also an important player in environmental matters as home to UNEP's headquarters. The country generates more than 70% of its electricity from renewable sources.
Norway and Rwanda are leading a "high ambition coalition" of governments that want to end plastic pollution by 2040 by cutting production and limiting some chemicals used in making plastics.
The two countries issued a ministerial joint statement this month calling for an ambitious and effective treaty to protect human health and the environment from plastic pollution by addressing the full life cycle of plastics. Plastic production is forecast to triple by 2060, according to UNEP.
Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is leading a group of countries that have large petroleum industries and prefer to focus on recycling and waste management.
On Saturday, Iran announced a coalition with Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and other countries with large petrochemical industries to advocate for the treaty to the focus on waste control, rather than the entire life cycle of plastics as agreed last year, raising concerns from environmentalists.
The United States' delegation suggests the treaty include some meaningful universal obligations the high-ambition coalition wants, while also recognizing some national discretion, both because of the differences between countries and because some will not agree to it otherwise.
The draft represents the range of viewpoints shared at the first two meetings.
IPEN wants a treaty that addresses the environmental and health issues posed by chemicals in plastics as the products are used, recycled, discarded or burned as waste.
Leaders of the global plastics industry are advocating for a process called chemical or advanced recycling and said they were very disappointed the draft does not have a strong focus on that. They view this as essential to solving the plastic waste crisis.
Beyond Plastics and IPEN issued a report in October that says the process threatens the environment, the climate, human health and environmental justice.
The negotiations, which have attracted more than 2,000 participants, will end Sunday.