US seeks allies for global plastic pollution treaty, Reuters reports

According to a document seen exclusively by Reuters, the United States is seeking to form a coalition ahead of negotiations on a global treaty on plastic pollution. This follows weeks after a similar group was formed by several other G7 members, including Britain, Canada, France and Germany.

The “High Ambition Coalition To End Plastic Pollution” was created in August and includes 20 countries, many of which are at the forefront of the environmental crisis. They are advocating for a treaty that includes global standards, bans and restrictions on plastic.

Six government and civilian sources involved in the talks say the U.S. decision expresses a desire to maintain the focus on individual countries’ efforts rather than providing universal rules, Reuters reports. The desired approach follows a similar pattern to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The United States was a key architect in creating the 2015 agreement that aims to limit global warming to 2℃. The agreement has been criticized for the lack of enforcement mechanisms.

Speaking to Reuters, a campaign manager for Greenpeace, John Hocevar, and two unnamed sources said U.S. officials had privately said they were reluctant to agree to global rules that would likely be rejected by its divided Congress.

The sources said an agreement similar to the Paris agreement is preferable because it would not have to be ratified by Congress due to its reliance on voluntary commitments based on national laws.

A concept note for the proposed coalition seen by Reuters says “the development of national action plans” should be the “main mechanism” for countries to contribute to the treaty.

According to a Reuters source, the invitations have been extended to include Australia, Japan and several other countries, and he aims to launch at the time of the first negotiations in Uruguay from November 28 to December 2, 2022.

Members of the United Nations agreed to form the Plastic Pollution Treaty in February in an attempt to tackle plastic waste. The treaty is expected to be finalized by 2024.

Reuters contacted the State Department for comment, but did not receive a direct response.

Monica Medina, the US official leading the treaty negotiations, told Reuters: “[The US is] committed to ending plastic pollution by 2040.

“The best way is through a Paris-like agreement that helps countries take ambitious action and holds them accountable, allows them to be innovative in finding solutions and drives action now and not later. (sic).”

Hiroshi Ono, Japan’s vice minister for global environmental affairs, told Reuters he was aware of a plastic coalition project involving the United States, but declined to comment further. Australia’s environment department also told Reuters it was aware of the formation of different coalitions, without giving further details.

Ono has previously said the treaty cannot take a “one-size-fits-all approach” because countries have different “national circumstances”.

Oil and petrochemical companies that manufacture plastic have shown resistance to tougher measures such as a one-size-fits-all approach. Reuters reported in February that industry groups had pressured governments such as the United States to reject agreements to limit plastic manufacturing.