Kenya’s priorities in upcoming Global Plastics Pollution agreement

Written by
Dr Ayub Macharia
  1. The conclusion of UNEP @ 50 celebrations and United Nations Environment Assembly UNEA 5.2 meetings in March 2022 yielded the adoption of 14 Resolutions, one of which is Resolution 5/14 on Ending plastic pollution; Towards an International Legally Binding Instrument.
  2. The process of drafting the Internationally binding Legal instrument was initiated by the UNEP Secretariat and the inaugural preparatory meeting dubbed the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) Meeting of the International Negotiations committee (INC) was convened in Dakar, Senegal from 29th May to 2nd June 2022.
  3. During the OEWG meeting, the main issues of contention was the election of the Representatives to the Bureau of the INC and the adoption of the Rules of Procedure, more specifically the right to vote for the European Union.
  4. The issue of the selection of the Bureau representatives for the African Region was sorted in a later meeting of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment  (AMCEN) held in September 2022.
  5. Decision 18.2 of AMCEN also established the Africa Group of Negotiators (AGN) on ending plastic pollution. The membership of the AGN comprise the National Focal Points and designated representatives of Member States. UNEP-RoA (Regional Office for Africa) organizes meetings for AGN members as part of intersessional engagements during the INC process.
  6. The rules of procedure proposed for adoption for the INC on Ending Plastic Pollution were those of the Minamata Convention with slight variations but this faced reluctance by most Member States and remained a major challenge during the INC-1 in Punta Del Este, and the Chair applied the rules in provisional basis. This issue is expected to be resolved during INC-2 in Paris.
  7. The INC-1 meeting took place in Punta del Este, Uruguay from 28 November to 2 December 2022. The meeting was guided by 5 policy briefing notes for negotiators prepared by the Secretariat, focusing on 1) definitions and key terms for the Treaty, 2) core elements of the Treaty, 3) regime interaction between the Treaty and existing international treaties, 4) potential structures for the Treaty, and 5) the role of the circular economy and plastic lifecycle from a legal perspective. INC-1 meeting did not agree on policy-based decisions regarding the contents of the Treaty.
  8. Kenya and South Africa agreed to champion the “Just Transition Initiative”, to ensure the treaty captures the interests of the broad informal sector players including waste pickers and small businesses involved in waste management including plastics. This initiative intends to ensure that the waste pickers and SMEs involved in the plastics value chain do not suffer from any disruption caused by enactment of the treaty to ensure a smooth transition to the new plastics regime.
  9. It was announced that INC-2 will be held in Paris in May 2023. In preparations for INC-2, the Secretariat was tasked to prepare for consideration by the Committee at its second session a document with potential options for elements towards an international legally binding instrument, based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastics as called for by UNEA resolution 5/14. The document should include an exploration of the objective, substantive provisions including core obligations, control measures, and voluntary approaches, implementation measures, and means of implementation. This document could include both legally binding and voluntary measures.
  10. The secretariat, in preparing the document, circulated a template with questions to member states and other stakeholders for filling and the deadline for submission was 13th February 2023. Kenya and Burkina Faso helped in collating the African response to the template circulated by the Secretariat. Thus the African position was collated from submissions from the member states.
  11. Kenya also submitted a response to the template with emphasis on the following areas to be prioritized in the treaty:-
    1. Prioritize upstream, midstream and downstream measures.
      1. At the upstream level, the treaty articles should specify core obligations and control measures that should include;
        • Tracking types and volumes of plastics feedstocks, polymers, processed plastics, 
        • Tracking the ingredients of plastics (both the polymers and the additives) throughout the supply chain
        • Restrict the use of plastics polymers and/or additives with certain toxic characteristics either based on a positive/negative list or based on sustainability criteria.
      2. At the midstream level, the treaty articles should specify core obligations to prohibit the production and recycling of plastics containing toxic chemicals to allow for a non-toxic circular economy
      3. At the downstream level, the treaty articles should specify core obligations and control measures that:
        • Promote the environmentally sound management (ESM) of plastic waste in line with resource efficiency.
        • Prevent the production and release of toxic emissions from plastics waste management.
        • Prevent dangerous practices such as open burning, incineration, co-firing in coal-fired power plants and waste-to-energy processes, co-processing in cement kilns, and chemical recycling.
        •  Agree a definition for ESM to guide future prohibitions, moratoriums and investment criteria.
    2. Sectoral strategies should be adopted for specific source of microplastics, fishing gear and agricultural plastics, among others.
    3. On National Action Plans, they should be made mandatory for all member states to meet their obligations and set out additional commitments to achieve its national objectives. The treaty should include a review and update mechanism for national action plans. Development of national action plans must involve all stakeholders at national level including the private sector, civil society institutions, as well as the most affected and vulnerable populations such as women, waste pickers among others. In addition, there should be guidelines approved by Conference of Parties for developing national inventory and national action plans
    4. On National Reporting, the treaty must adopt definitions, formats and methodologies for reporting to ensure comparable statistical data and enable assessment of the progress of implementation of the instrument and the effectiveness of the instrument in achieving its objectives. Such reporting should cover each phase of the life cycle: upstream, midstream and downstream.
    5. On Financial mechanism, the treaty should adopt a financial mechanism that provides for predictable, adequate and timely financial resources and technical assistance, including technology transfer, to developing country Parties and Parties with economies in transition on a grant basis. Such financial assistance under the treaty should be delivered via a dedicated multilateral fund established for that purpose, operating under the authority of the Parties.
    6. On Subsidiary bodies, the treaty should establish key subsidiary bodies to support implementation, including dedicated scientific, technical and economic assessment bodies, operating under the authority of the Parties
    7. The treaty should ensure application of the polluter pays principle and application of a comprehensive EPR system that allows cost-recovery mechanisms. The treaty should integrate a self-financing system through a cascaded EPR system from national, regional and international level.
    8. The treaty should promote a robust environmental education and public awareness on plastics pollution to achieve the objectives of the treaty.
  12. The submission by Kenya and other member states will form the basis of negotiations during INC-2 to be held from 29 May – 2 June 2023 in Paris, France.


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