Biden administration faces pressure to pick a side on plastics

By Jordan Wolman | 04/23/2024 01:10 PM EDT

Environmental and industry groups are competing to win support for their pollution solutions.

A woman speaks at a rally to call for an ambitious global plastics treaty in Ottawa, Canada.

A woman speaks Sunday at a rally to call for an ambitious global plastics treaty in Ottawa. Jordan Wolman/POLITICO

OTTAWA — The Biden administration is facing an increasingly charged and polarized environment around U.N. talks aimed at producing a global treaty to tackle plastic pollution as pressure mounts at home and abroad.

U.S. negotiators have consistently clung to a middle ground position as environmental and industry groups butt heads over whether the best solution for the problem lies in dramatically and enforceably cutting plastic production or finding better ways of handling its ubiquitous waste.

As American diplomats bring their case to Canada’s capital for the fourth of five scheduled rounds of talks with the goal of striking a deal by the end of this year, they’re being urged to stop pursuing a something-for-everyone solution and join allies in seeking production limits.


“The congressional delegation that is here, and I certainly share this, feels the U.S. should be taking more of a leadership role in seeking to capture the high ambition vision,” Sen. Jeff Merkley, the Oregon Democrat leading a group of five U.S. lawmakers at the talks, said in an interview. “By saying that everyone needs to be able to buy in, and just nations will figure them out for themselves by using the Paris [Climate Accords] model, we’re basically saying that we’re not going to lay out a framework that will actually tackle the problem.”