Pacific delegates at the huddle on the last night of INC-4.
Waste Management and Pollution Control

01 May 2023, Ottawa Canada - Pacific delegates are leaving Ottawa Canada exhausted but reasonably satisfied with an advanced draft text of an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. They are also acutely aware that the road to the next Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meeting (INC-5) is not going to be easy with the Committee agreeing to intersessional work in the lead up to Busan, Korea, at the end of the year.
On the last day of the fourth session of the INC (INC-4) at the Shaw Centre on Monday, Pacific negotiators joined delegates from around the world as they worked into the early hours of Tuesday to agree to an advanced draft of a text aimed to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution. 
The advanced draft text is amongst the key decisions made at INC-4, with members also opting to create an Open-ended Legal Drafting Group as an advisory group to review elements of the text. 
The strong Pacific presence in the Canada Hall applauded the outcome gavelled by the Chair of the INC, Ambassador Luis Vayas, just after 3am. 
“We are truly grateful for your leadership and firm direction in advancing INC-4 to where we are. We understand that this week has been tough, particularly with the varying levels of progress across the different subgroups; but through it all, you and your team have carefully balanced the interests of all members,” H.E Ambassador Odo Tevi, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Vanuatu to the United Nations, and the Chair of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) told the plenary.
Pacific countries welcomed the decision for intersessional work and although the areas of inter-sessional topics may not cover the full range of issues, which are of priority to the Pacific, Ambassador Odo said the opportunity to continue to engage in the process is critical.
“We look forward to INC-5 where the Committee can once again engage in active and fruitful discussion on issues of primary plastic polymers, and polymers of concern, as these are priority issues for the Pacific,” he said. “To ensure that this is fully acknowledged and recognised, our request is for you to compile a scientific and technical report covering the baselines and sustainable levels of production and consumption of primary plastic polymers, including information on imports and exports, where available. Such a report will resource Member states with adequate information to constructively engage during the final session of negotiations.”
The Pacific countries represented at INC-4 were the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. They were supported by the Government of Australia and the United Nations.
Despite contributing 1.3percent to global plastic pollution statistics, Pacific communities are at the forefront of the impacts. Samoa, as the Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) reminded that small islands in a plastic ocean is a reality we simply refuse to accept.
“We have merely a matter of days left to finalise an ambitious, effective and equitable international legally binding Instrument that addresses a full life-cycle approach to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. With INC-5 as our final session in this progress, we encourage additional opportunities for members to engage on key areas of the future instrument with the goal of building convergence, developing common understandings, and ultimately, advancing the text before us,” AOSIS said in a statement, delivered by Ms Anama Solofa, AOSIS lead negotiator on Ocean Issues.
“One of these key areas is our objective to ensure the agreement is supported by new, additional, adequate, and predictable means of implementation. This must include a robust financial mechanism, which advances just transition and provides specific support provisions for SIDS, including priority access to fast tracked resources, technology transfer, technical assistance and capacity building.
“In line with established precedent in existing multilateral environmental agreements, this agreement must fully take into account, both in its design and implementation, the special circumstances of SIDS and our unique vulnerabilities to this issue, like other environmental challenges that we are disproportionately affected by, but contribute minimally to.”
More than 2,500 delegates participated in INC-4, representing 170 Members and over 480 Observer organisations including - non-governmental organisations, intergovernmental organisations, and UN entities. INC-4 marked the Committee's largest and most inclusive gathering to date, with Observer participation increasing by almost fifty per cent.
Over the course of INC-4, delegates worked to streamline the revised draft text of the international legally binding instrument. They discussed, among other things: emissions and releases; production; product design; waste management; problematic and avoidable plastics; financing, and a just transition.
The Cook Islands and Fiji were amongst country delegations to deliver national statements during the closing plenary, reaffirming their unwavering commitment to the negotiations.
“We all agree that Plastic pollution is a severe global challenge with plastic waste already reaching alarming levels worldwide. While we continue to grapple with existing gaps in current MEAs, failing recycling efforts and unsustainable plastic production, the amount of plastic waste inevitably continues to rise. This means that the Cook Islands, like other Pacific Islands, will continue to struggle to cope with the influx of plastic waste, turning us into unwitting Plastic Colonies. This is a future that we flatly refuse,” said Ms Sandrina Thondoo, Director of Treaties, Multilateral and Oceans Division, Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.
“And this is why Chair, the failure to include consideration of primary plastic polymers in the topics of the intersessional work plan remains a grave concern for us, especially since a large number of other countries equally supported this request. We hereby put on record that our request to compile a scientific and technical report covering the baselines and sustainable levels of production and consumption, is still ignored. 
“This being said, regardless whether our priorities, like those of many others,  didn't make it into the intersessional work plan, we will continue to engage on them in Busan and continue to advocate for their rightful place in an ambitious and effective treaty.”
Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Mr Sivendra Michael reminded that as delegates gathered in Ottawa, about a thousand kilograms of plastic pollutants has entered our land and marine environment—the very ecosystem that has sustained us for thousands of years with the hope that it will continue to sustain us into the future - the very same ecosystem on which our Fijian economy is built on.
“As Pacific islanders, any threat to our ocean is a threat to our existence,” he said. “We are here representing the voices of Fijians back home who are disproportionately impacted by plastic pollution. Plastic pollution has inundated our lives as people of Oceania—we have heard that it is already in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe, affecting our health, threatening our food and water security, and further exacerbating the impacts of Climate Change and loss of nature.”
Mr Michael said the international community must do better collectively to tackle plastic pollution. “To end, let us leave Ottawa with an end in sight… an end to plastic pollution. And while on the road to Busan, we implore fellow delegates with two tips; break free from plastics; and please learn to break free from brackets!”

The fourth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment is taking place in Ottawa, Canada, from 23-29 April 2024. 
The Pacific Islands are represented by the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu through the support of the Government of Australia and the United Nations. 
They are supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), working with partners the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC), The Pacific Community (SPC), Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL), University of Wollongong, WWF and Massey University.
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INC-4, plastics treaty, one pacific voice