NAIROBI— Companies attending negotiations for the U.N. global plastics treaty have spent tens of millions of dollars to sway politics and policymakers, according to an analysis released today by the Center for Biological Diversity. Corporations with representatives at the treaty’s third negotiating session, or INC-3, spent more than $85 million on lobbying and political contributions in the 2022 U.S. election cycle.
Registered delegates at INC-3 include representatives from several major U.S. companies with interests in plastic, such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dow, Inc. Trade groups representing hundreds more companies are also in attendance, including the American Chemistry Council, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the International Council of Beverage Associations.
“The only way to curb our catastrophic plastic pollution problem is to cut plastic production, but the industry is spending big to block action at every level to protect their profits,” said David Derrick, a Center attorney attending INC-3 in person. “These companies came to Nairobi to make sure the world doesn’t get strong protections against the plastic havoc they’ve been wreaking. We knew that industry had way too much influence over the global plastics treaty as well as our political system at home, but these dollar amounts highlight how far petrochemical and consumer goods companies will go to keep polluting.”
The INC-3 negotiations are in their fifth day and will conclude on Nov. 19. In closed sessions, United Nations member states have been sharing their positions and amendments to the initial treaty text, called the “zero draft,” line by line, in an attempt to reach some agreement. The U.N.’s goal is to have final treaty text ready by the end of 2024, after a total of five negotiation sessions.
The American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing hundreds of companies, tops the list of 2022 U.S. lobbying expenditures with $19,820,000. The ACC has at least five registered delegates at INC-3, but additional members may be registered under other organization names, or in Nairobi attending events outside the official negotiations.
An analysis of industry representation at INC-3 from the Center for International Environmental Law found that the 143 corporate lobbyists attending outnumber the combined delegations from 70 countries, and far surpass the 38 scientists attending as part of a scientists’ coalition.
The zero draft contains a suite of options for negotiators to debate, including some provisions calling for a reduction in plastic production and the elimination of particularly harmful types of plastic and chemicals. It recognizes the need for transparency and a just transition. The zero draft also includes text on recycling and waste management that could shift the focus of action away from reduction, undermining the goal of the treaty.
“The world has a historic chance to make a difference in the relentless flood of plastic pollution that’s harming so many,” Derrick said. “We can’t let a relatively small number of profit-hungry companies derail such an important opportunity to fix our plastic problem at its source.”