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BRIEFJanuary 15, 2024

World Bank Group and the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution Process

INC process Plastic Pollution

In March 2022, at the resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2), a historic resolution 5/14 was adopted to develop an International Legally Binding Instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. The instrument is to be based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastic. An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) has been established, which will meet five times to develop the specific content of the new ILBI by the end of 2024.

This global momentum is matched by the growing business across the World Bank Group --with our mission to support clients tackling plastic pollution with a lifecycle approach, both in the upstream and the downstream. And this is needed as we cannot have a world without poverty in a world with plastics pollution.  

Our Contribution to the INC Process

The World Bank Group has significantly expanded its role since the INC process began, taking the lead in organizing side events on key themes; convening development partners, and bringing in global knowledge and cutting-edge decision support tools. Please review the subsequent tabs to learn more about the World Bank Group’s engagements and support at each specific INC meeting.

Our Comparative Advantage

Relating to the upcoming instrument, the World Bank Group is well-positioned to work with other partners to tackle marine plastics through both catalytic and conventional financing and investments.

Covering all regions, the World Bank Group is engaged in more than 60 countries looking at plastic pollution prevention. The WBG supports countries transitioning to a circular economy and provides technical expertise and policy advice on plastic pollution prevention across many sectors, including tourism, clean energy, agriculture, and transportation.

First, we are investing in data on marine plastics sources, pathways and impacts and working with our clients to track pathways of plastics from land, through rivers, and into coastal waters. For example, we are using innovative drone surveys complemented by field assessments to identify top 10 plastic products in waterways in Cambodia, Philippines, Laos, and Vietnam. Also, case studies in Nigeria and Senegal are helping to identify pollution hotspots and analyze their sources, travel pathways through streams and on land, and overall impact to the coastal environment. The results and recommendations will help contribute to INC discussions relating to definitions, methods, baselines, and data sharing.

Second, we are working on game-changer tools to support policy-making. We have the Plastic Policy Simulator tool –which is a data-driven model for policy analysis to better describe the impacts of different policy instruments and policy packages on individual economic agents and on the plastic value chain at large. We are now developing – in collaboration with other partners –an investment toolkit, which will provide countries with a clear and science-based estimation of how much capital investment will be required to deliver their national action plans to deal with plastic pollution, broken down by types of investments, by year and by asset class.

Third, we are supporting national plastics action plans, roadmaps to phase out single use plastics, and circular economy strategies across a range of countries. These help to identify fiscal and regulatory reforms to improve waste management, expedite the transition to a circular economy, and reduce plastics use. For example, in Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines, we have helped the governments to inform the implementation of their National Action Plans; in Mozambique and Malaysia we are supporting assessment of circular economy opportunities; in Bangladesh, we are helping the government develop a plastics life cycle assessment and a roadmap/action plan to reduce marine plastics.

We are also developing – in collaboration with other partners including OECD, UNEP, UNEPFI, and GPAP (WEF) –an investment toolkit called PlastINVEST, which will provide countries with a clear and science-based estimation of how much capital investment will be required to deliver their national actions to deal with plastic pollution, broken down by types of investments, by year and by asset class. It will help bridge the gaps between finance needs and demands, while ensuring alignment with supply.

Fourth, we are mobilizing finance –both for the public sector (through IBRD/IDA financing) and in private sector (through IFC investments). Our investments in plastics are informed by decades of experience pollution and solid waste management. The World Bank is supporting several investments in countries through projects covering many sectors, including solid waste management [e.g. Cambodia and Indonesia], agriculture [such as in China], and further opportunities being identified in fisheries, tourism, river basin projects. With PROBLUE funding allocated as recipient-executed, the Bank is scaling up plastic-related components/activities into operations.

Through IFC, we are also making investments in the private sector, especially in the waste management and recycling industry. For example, IFC invested US$33 million in a recycling facility that will convert used plastic bottles into food-grade, recycled resin that will be sold to the Mexican soft-drinks bottling industry. In addition, joint market studies. In addition, the IFC is also expanding its work in helping to create markets (including on standards); creating opportunities (including partnering with private sector to identify/develop projects; providing technical and investment advice to firms entering new markets) and crystalizing opportunities (including debt and equity financing products).

Finally, we are recognized for our strong convening power, working together partners to have a stronger voice. In the plastics space too, we are relying on unlocking impact through the power of partnerships. Drawing from the proven experiences with ALDFG and Regional Collaboration, we will remain committed to joining efforts with the IFC to bring in the private sector, as well as with other partner agencies and organizations, with the final goal to align with the pace set by Member States and deliver impactful outcomes for their benefit.

Opportunities in ILBI Implementation

The Bank will maintain its commitment to assisting countries in prioritizing and tailoring their policies and plans for action to facilitate compliance with the international legally binding instrument, and its targets and commitments.

Main discussion points at the INCs currently revolve around whether the ILBI will be top-down (globally mandated) or bottom-up (determined by countries). Additionally, negotiating states are debating topics such as primary plastics/polymers of concern, extended producer responsibility, and a possible financing mechanism.

Irrespective of the specific content of its final provisions, implementation of the ILBI will require the adoption of national measures to fulfill the obligations laid out in the instrument. Given its experience and mandate, the World Bank Group has tremendous opportunities to customize support to negotiating countries, in ILBI implementation:

1.       Help Countries Build the Evidence Base through Customized Analytics

While the ILBI will move towards core obligations and targets, an important first step will be for countries to accurately assess their baseline. Through its work with partners on harmonizing methodologies, the World Bank will help countries establish baselines, identify appropriate monitoring systems, and build capacity to measure progress on ending plastic pollution.

Additionally, the Bank could work with other organizations  (including research and academia) to create/ strengthen platforms for data sharing and analytics. Further deep dives in key sectors (beyond packaging) with the IFC would help understand barriers to private sector finance and move towards unlocking new markets in plastics alternatives (upstream) and recycling and plastic waste management (downstream).

2.       Provide Targeted Support to Countries in Prioritizing Policy and Investment Decisions

Ensuring compliance with core obligations agreed on in the ILBI will require countries to individually, and collectively, identify the appropriate combination of policy measures and regulations to suit their country's context. Scaling up the application of the PPS/ PSTE tools in countries will help provide just-in-time decision-support to governments –including trade-offs and scenario planning.

3.       Investments for Governments and Private Sector

As countries move towards actions to tackle plastic pollution, and choose different investment strategies, World Bank financing (and with PROBLUE RETF) can be directed towards the relevant infrastructure and activities. Similarly, the IFC is now expanding its portfolio of investments in the plastics space –and helping to identify possible blue financing.

In addition to the need for national-level investments, the INC discussions have highlighted the importance of regional solutions, given the transboundary nature of plastic pollution. Building on two existing projects in Southeast Asia (Regional Program on Combating Marine Plastics  - SEA-MaP) and in South Asia (Plastic Free Rivers and Seas -PLEASE), we are now exploring new regional programs in West Africa, and in the Pacific Islands.

4.        Potential to serve as an Interim Financing mechanism    

Options being considered at the INC relating to a potential financing mechanism include (a) establishing a dedicated plastics multilateral fund or funds through the new instrument OR (b) Expanding an existing multilateral fund; OR (c) considering a hybrid approach.

In this regard, given the strong experience across providing plastics financing across sectors and countries, the PROBLUE umbrella multi-donor trust fund (administered by the World Bank) has the potential to serve as an interim measure. This would involve entering into a possible arrangement as trustee, host, or other capacity to operationalize plastics-related funds and serve as financial intermediary to address the changing needs of developing country Parties to implement the obligations under ILBI.

This interim arrangement could focus on increasing financial flows from all domestic and international, public, and private sources, towards projects that prevent or reduce emissions and releases to the environment of plastics and plastic products across the life cycle.  It would also provide timely, sustainable, and adequate capacity-building and technical assistance  to developing countries, to assist them in implementing their obligations under the ILBI and to retain such capacity once built.

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