Ottawa climate talks: can global plastic problem be solved?

Nations aim to draft world's first treaty on plastic pollution, but resistance from oil- and gas-producing countries could limit scope

INC-4 chairman Luis Vayas Valdivieso (right) shakes hands with Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault during the fourth session of the UN Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution in Ottawa, Canada, on 23 April, 2024.
Canada's minister of environment and climate Steven Guilbeault shakes hands with the chairman of the talks, Luis Vayas Valdivieso
(Image credit: Dave Chan / AFP via Getty Images)

Representatives from around the world will meet in Ottawa this week to continue drafting the first global treaty aimed at halting soaring plastic pollution.

Thousands of negotiators in the Canadian capital will "streamline the existing treaty draft and decide its scope", said The Associated Press. This is the fourth of five meetings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for Plastics (INC4) after 175 nations agreed in 2022 to make the first legally binding treaty on plastics pollution by the end of 2024. The "extremely short timeline for negotiations" is meant to match "the urgency of the problem". 

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Harriet Marsden is a writer for The Week, mostly covering UK and global news and politics. Before joining the site, she was a freelance journalist for seven years, specialising in social affairs, gender equality and culture. She worked for The Guardian, The Times and The Independent, and regularly contributed articles to The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The New Statesman, Tortoise Media and Metro, as well as appearing on BBC Radio London, Times Radio and “Woman’s Hour”. She has a master’s in international journalism from City University, London, and was awarded the "journalist-at-large" fellowship by the Local Trust charity in 2021.