Stockholm (NordSIP) – Institutional investors measuring the carbon footprint and implied temperature rise of their portfolios may soon be compelled to further expand the scope of their ESG reporting to capture additional data on biodiversity and plastics. The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) will publish its final reporting framework in September of this year, and a United Nations-convened meeting in Paris next week is expected to result in additional reporting requirements on the use of plastics in value chains in due course. This second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on plastic pollution (INC-2) will take place at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France from 29 May to 2 June 2023.
Financial markets called to action
The overarching objective of INC-2 is to put in place an international, legally binding agreement on plastic pollution equivalent in scale and scope to the Paris climate agreement and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. As part of the preparatory work, a United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) convened Finance Leadership Group (FLG) on Plastics has issued its recommendations for a successful mobilisation of global financial resources to meet the scale of the problem. The FLG wants to see a clear, measurable and time-bound target involving the reorientation of both private and public financials flows facilitated by a mandatory framework and enabling economic environment. The group published its 10 key messages to the INC-2 in a formal response to the secretariat’s preparatory options paper.
As part of the provisional agenda, the INC-2 secretariat has provided a guidance document laying out potential options for discussion and eventual inclusion the final agreement. These include addressing problematic or avoidable plastic products, as well as some of the worse chemicals used in the production process. There are also objectives for reducing the reslease of microplastics, improving waste management, and building in longevity and circularity to product design.
Will the treaty address the root of the problem?
In a week in which a study by the University of Strathclyde revealed that vast quantities of microplastics were being inadvertently released into the environment by a major recycling facility in the UK, many NGOs are hoping that INC-2 will focus on the first core obligation listed in its guidance document. That is the proposal to phase out and/or reduce the supply of, and demand for and use of primary plastic polymers. Average global plastic recycling rates struggle to exceed 10%, and many environmental campaigners believe that land and marine plastics pollution can only be effectively addressed at source. So far the plastics industry has been strongly pushing for downstream solutions involving waste management, recycling and reuse, echoing the fossil fuel industry’s promotion of carbon capture instead of a phase-out of oil and gas production. Despite the formation in 2019 of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), production of virgin plastics by its member companies has continued to grow apace, and there are concerns over the industry’s promotion of technological downstream solutions and the exclusion of representatives from developing nations from the discussions in Paris. NordSIP will report on significant outcomes as INC-2 progresses over the coming week.